By: Bill Tewes, Mark Prott, & Jim Boyce
After disposing of the Bears, the Packers got a mini-bye to prepare for this Sunday’s game in Atlanta. Unfortunately the extra time did little to help Green Bay on the injury front as they face the dirty birds.
FALCONS 30 PACKERS 27
This was shaping up to be a difficult road challenge even before Clay Matthews and Randall Cobb were limited in practice, leaving their status for Sunday up in the air. Rodgers will likely rely heavily on the short passing game again. This could work quite well as Atlanta’s defense is weak in the middle of the field, though they do have a solid cornerback duo. Running Back remains a question, perhaps Don Jackson or Knile Davis will receive something resembling a normal RB workload, but I expect Ty Montgomery will be lined up back there quite a bit.
The Falcons offensive strengths seem to expose Green Bay’s biggest weakness right now. That strength being Julio Jones lining up against the Packers depleted secondary. With over 800 yards in seven games, Jones is doing things rarely seen in the NFL. The Packers will no doubt give him extra attention, but that could open things up for everyone else. While I’m not sure Atlanta is really an NFC contender, the Packers inconsistencies so far this season have me feeling like they’ll come up just short in this one.
Green Bay 28 Atlanta 21
At this point in the season, Green Bay will get their toughest offensive challenge in the Atlanta Falcons. The Packers are down their top three cornerbacks, which is going to be an obviously difficult challenge to overcome. Ladarius Gunter will most likely have the task of covering Julio Jones with safety help over the top. A successful game for Green Bay’s secondary will be if they can limit Julio to under 250 yards receiving. Stop laughing, it’s the damn truth.
In order for Green Bay to win this game, and I am picking them to win it in Atlanta, is for their defense to get frenetic pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons are a very beatable team and even with their high powered offense, as San Diego proved last week. Atlanta’s offensive line has been pretty bad this year, and should allow for Green Bay’s front to get plenty of pressure.
Atlanta’s linebacking group has proven lackluster and outside of cornerback Desmond Trufant, their secondary has no noteworthy players. Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of opportunities to pick apart this Falcons defense and must seize the moment in order for Green Bay to not only win, but regain confidence heading into a difficult stretch of their schedule. I expect receiver Davante Adams to play a huge role with Trufant shadowing Jordy Nelson, as well as RB/WR Ty Montgomery getting plenty of touches.
FALCONS 31 PACKERS 27
This game has all the makings of a shootout. I honestly could see it going either way but because it’s in Atlanta I’m giving the edge to the Falcons. Green Bay has been a solid defense overall this year but the Falcons have one of the top offenses in the league and maybe the top overall NFL offensive skill position player in Julio Jones. Jones must be salivating at the thought of running routes against the Packers’ opening day 4th cornerback, Ladarius Gunter. The best bet for the Packers’ success will likely be Gunter using his physicality at the line against Jones with help over the top from Clinton-Dix. The Packers will need to generate a pass rush against Matt Ryan, who is already being sacked almost 3 times per game.
On the offensive side of the ball I see the Packers picking up from last week against the Bears and also being able to move the ball against the Falcons and their below average defense. The secondary of the Falcons is nothing special so there should be opportunities in the passing game. The Packers would be wise to continue utilizing the short West Coast passing attack they used last week. It seemed to bring rhythm back to the overall game of Aaron Rodgers. With over a week now in the offense it will be interesting to see how much Knile Davis will be incorporated into the game plan.