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Patriots in historically rare position as heavy underdogs against Packers

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Underdog Patriots: The oddsmakers aren't giving the Patriots much of a chance to beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS).

With 14-year veteran Brian Hoyer set to start at quarterback in place of the injured Mac Jones, ESPN's Football Power Index projects the Packers with an 89.4% chance to beat New England, which is currently the most lopsided matchup in an NFL game this season.

Furthermore, the Patriots were 10.5-point underdogs for much of the week before slipping to 9.5. If the spread ends up back in double digits, it would be just the fourth regular-season game in coach Bill Belichick's 23-year tenure in which New England would be projected to lose by 10 or more points. Only the Packers (3 times) have been double-digit underdogs in fewer games since 2000.

So it goes when a team won't have its starting quarterback, will be missing receiver Jakobi Meyers (knee), and hasn't been playing its best football. But by the end the week, players spoke with confidence that didn't reflect their long-shot status.

"I feel like once you get to this level, you're all good enough to win," Meyers said before he was ruled out due to a knee injury.

"It's more about the trust you have in the locker room. Ultimately, you come in every day and don't worry about what anyone else says, other than the guy on your left and the guy on your right. If we're all confident in each other, we could care less what other people say. We know what we're going out to do and what our plan is."

Starting defensive tackle Davon Godchaux noted the Packers' home winning streak -- an NFL-high 14 consecutive regular-season victories -- in acknowledging the challenge ahead. He embraces it.

"Nobody has won there in the last couple years besides the 49ers and Tampa in the playoffs. But hey, I love it. Playing in a hostile environment. Football country. Just like Pittsburgh. I think it's going to be a great game against a Hall of Fame quarterback [Aaron Rodgers]," he said.

"I don't really care about the odds. I always go into a game with a winner's mentality. I never prepare Monday through Saturday to lose on Sunday, and I know my teammates feel the same way."

2. Mac report: Jones' presence at the start of practice Friday -- when he hardly moved and didn't step into any throws -- was more symbolic than reflective of a quarterback who was going to play against the Packers. Showing his toughness to those around him is naturally meaningful to Jones, whose high left ankle sprain was heavily taped. Later, in the locker room, one teammate noted how Jones has been in good spirits around the facility and walking without the aid of a boot.

3. QB injuries in Pack-Pats meetings: The Patriots face the Packers on Sunday for the just the sixth time in Belichick's 23-year tenure as head coach. Half of those meetings have been dramatically impacted by quarterback injuries: Brett Favre (elbow) was forced out of the game in a 35-0 Patriots blowout at Lambeau in 2006; a concussion kept Rodgers out of a 31-27 Patriots win in 2010; and now Jones is missing his first game as a pro. A real bummer, considering how infrequently the teams meet.

4. Thornton eligible: Speedy Patriots rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton is eligible to come off injured reserve after Sunday's game, although that might be an optimistic timetable. When Thornton underwent surgery for a fractured clavicle Aug. 22, the expectation was a return in the range of six to eight weeks, and that would be on the earliest parts of that projection. At last check, Belichick was taking a day-by-day approach with Thornton's status.

5. Wise's playing time: Sixth-year defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. has been a surprise breakout player through three games; his four sacks lead the team and 13 tackles rank fourth. Wise has played 148 out of a possible 179 defensive snaps (82.6%). Through three games last season, he had played 109 out of a possible 189 defensive snaps (57.6%). That's a big jump.

6. International flags: The NFL is allowing players to wear international flag decals on their helmets over the next two weeks, and coaches can wear pins as part of celebrating the "growing number of nationalities and cultures that make up the fabric" of the league. No surprise that Belichick plans to don a Croatia pin as a nod to his Croatian ancestry. Defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale, who will represent American Samoa on his helmet, described the opportunity as meaningful to him. "Me growing up on the island, raised there for 13 years, I never came to the States until I came for college in 2013 [Washington State]. To recognize that is unique, because I take a lot of pride in my culture," he said.

7. Campbell's hit: If Ravens defensive lineman Calais Campbell had delivered the same hit that injured Mac Jones on a more established quarterback, such as Tom Brady or Rodgers, would there have at least been a penalty flag? My thought: Y-E-S. That Jones absorbed the full force of the 6-foot-8, 307-pound Campbell pancaking him -- and didn't get the benefit of a roughing-the-passer call despite specific language that defenders aren't allowed to land on top of quarterbacks with all or most of their weight -- was surprising to say the least. It seemed like an obvious miss for a league that otherwise goes out of its way to protect quarterbacks.

8. Tua's injury resonates: Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's scary head and neck injuries on Thursday night resonated throughout the NFL; and closer to home, defenders Matthew Judon and Adrian Phillips voiced their displeasure on Twitter. Judon's message: If players don't look out for themselves, no one will. "That's tough, seeing his fingers like that; it made me cringe watching on TV," said Godchaux, a teammate of Tagovailoa's for two seasons in Miami. "I just want to say prayers to his family."

9. Depleted practice squad: With practice squads expanded to 16 players this season, the Patriots have managed a run of injuries without placing anyone on practice squad/injured reserve, but things could be reaching a breaking point after running back J.J. Taylor went down late last week with a foot/ankle injury, according to a source. Taylor joins linebacker Cameron McGrone, defensive lineman LaBryan Ray and guard Bill Murray as practice-squad players who haven't been spotted at recent practices.

10. Did You Know: The Patriots had never lost to the Ravens at home in the regular season prior to last week; that leaves the Bears (4-0), Texans (5-0) and Jaguars (5-0) as the only teams against which the Patriots have an undefeated regular-season record at home.