With Josh McDaniels around, the Patriots have transitioned more to a power football team. That worked against Tennessee, but not against Arizona. The reliance on the run -- especially Danny Woodhead -- may have got in the way against Baltimore. An otherwise sensational offensive gameplan against the Ravens got bogged down by McDaniels' trickery. Brady is operating under center a lot more this year. Brandon Lloyd gets a ton of targets and Julian Edelman is a much bigger factor. There are a lot of new, moving pieces here. It makes sense the Patriots' offense has been just a hair off their game. (They are 10th in points score.)
The Packers have enviable continuity and talent. Occasionally we wonder if defenses have caught up ever-so-slightly to Mike McCarthy's approach. Green Bay has struggled to move the ball this year. The increased contact allowed under replacement refs have not helped Green Bay's timing offense. This is a precise offense that requires execution over fooling defenses. It's a lot like the old Peyton Manning-led Colts teams, but the execution isn't happening at the moment.
The Patriots have lost two games by a combined three points. One was on the road against another very good AFC contender. They haven't been far away. Then again, they usually win those games.
The Patriots are in one of the weaker divisions in the league. The offense hasn't been far away from an elite unit and the defense looks improved. (How improved remains to be seen.) They still look like heavy favorites in the AFC East.
Both teams have higher goals than just making the playoffs. They know well that it matters how you are playing in December, not September. Their fans shouldn't press the panic button yet.