Early Bird Breakdown Week 14: Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers -MNF Special!
Hello all! Welcome to another Early Bird Breakdown! Let’s begin with the recap:
Last week the Green Bay Packers won a nail biter 26-21 against one of the best teams in the NFL, the New England Patriots. Rodgers led an excellent drive that capped off in a field goal but would have been a touchdown if Davante Adams would not have dropped an easy touchdown reception. Even with the drop, Adams still deserved a game ball for his best performance of the season grabbing six receptions for a game high 121 yards while Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb were covered by New England’s talented cornerback tandem, though both made strong impacts when given the ball from Rodgers. The defense was the most impressive it has been all season, for the first time locking down an elite offense and was the reason Green Bay won the game. If the defense can play like that in the post season, Green Bay will be nearly unbeatable.
As for the visiting Atlanta Falcons, they hosted and beat the Arizona Cardinals 29-18 to keep Atlanta in first in the lowly NFC South. Atlanta may be in first, but they are only 5-7 on the year and despite looking very good offensively against one of the league’s best defenses, I am not so sure they win against Arizona if their starting quarterback Carson Palmer was healthy and playing.
Packers’ Offense vs. Falcons’ Defense:
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers boast the second highest scoring offense in the league and they tend to score almost two touchdowns more per game at home (35 points per game) than the road (22.5 points per game). Atlanta tries to slow this offense down with…the league’s worst defense. Atlanta is last in overall yards (403.2 per game), last in pass defense (284.9 per game) and 22nd against the run (118.3 per game). They are second to last at generating pressure with the team having a combined 14 sacks, which is the same amount that just Justin Houston on Kansas City has by himself. Expect Rodgers to have an easy time shredding a bad secondary that cannot generate any sort of pass rush. They also are prone to not stopping the run either so if head coach Mike McCarthy wants to run the ball he should have no difficulty in doing so. In fact, running the ball and slowing the clock may be the only thing keeping the offense from scoring 50, that and Atlanta themselves chewing the clock with their offense.
This will be the game that Rodgers will use to cement his second MVP trophy, as he currently is first on polling on ESPN and NFL.com. Green Bay’s last primetime game of the regular season against a defense that should allow him to easily put up crazy numbers will be the nail in the coffin for Rodgers barring a home loss to the Lions on week 17.
Packers’ Defense vs. Patriots’ Offense:
Green Bay’s defense was excellent last week, and they are going to have to do it again against another top-ten offense. Atlanta ranks number nine overall in total offense (374 yards per game), sixth in passing (276.6 yards per game) and 25th at rushing (97.2 yards per game). The offense is powered by a good year from quarterback Matt Ryan, who has a repertoire of weapons that can almost rival Green Bays. Wide receiver Julio Jones enters the game first in the NFC in receiving yards with 1,169 total and just came off a game where he embarrassed one of the best corners in the game, Arizona’s Patrick Peterson. Jones will be the biggest test for the Green Bay defense, which should continue it’s upswing of improved rushing defense against a team that has not been able to run the ball. While Green Bay’s secondary has been strong all season against the pass, tied for fourth in the league with 15 interceptions and 11th overall in yards per game in the air (234.5), Julio Jones is the best wide receiver they have faced since Calvin Johnson was nicked up the first time Green Bay faced Detroit back in week three and he still managed to lead the Lions in receiving. In that game, defensive coordinator Dom Capers had Sam Shields match one-on-one with Johnson all game, I would expect help against Julio Jones.
Recently, Green Bay has taken a page out of Seattle’s playbook and left their corners in designated areas: Tramon Williams covers the right side of the field from the quarterback’s perspective, Sam Shields the left (if healthy), Micah Hyde in the nickel, with Davon House and Casey Hayword on rotation and dime packages. This will give the Packers different looks on Jones and I would also expect help from rookie safety Haha Clinton-Dix over the top as he has week in and week out continued to progress and will be needed to keep the tall and fast Jones in check.
On the other side of the field, the Falcons still have Roddy White, who may have lost a step at the age of 32, is still a very talented wide receiver and excellent route runner. They also have at wide receiver and nightmare returner Devin Hester, who Packer fans remember quite painfully well from his time in Chicago as a weapon for Matt Ryan. If the defense can stop back-to-back talented and top-ten offenses on consecutive weeks, it will go a long way in showing that Green Bay is positioned for another Super Bowl run.
The Weather Factor:
Green Bay is expected to be just over freezing at the kickoff, right around 33o. While there are expected light showers earlier in the day, there is a low 8% chance 9% chance of precipitation around game time.
Two strong offenses collide in a potential playoff preview as two first place teams battle it out on Monday night football. While that sentence can hype the game, the reality is that the 9-3 Green Bay Packers are a much more complete and frankly better team than the 5-7 Falcons. The Falcons do have something to play for and they did just beat a 9-3 Cardinals team, albeit at home against their backup quarterback. While the defense looked amazing last week and won the game for Green Bay, they could regress a bit and still be enough to blow out Atlanta. Green Bay’s biggest blowouts come when they generate three-and-outs and turnovers, while the odds of that are not as likely against this offense, the fact is that Green Bay’s offense may not need to punt at all this game. If Green Bay’s defense plays like it did against New England, this is another home game that is over by half time and Rodgers will not play in the fourth quarter. If the Falcons can keep pace with Green Bay, they could turn this into a bit of a shoot out, but this Falcon’s defense cannot stop Rodgers in general, let alone when it counts. Vegas has the Packers at +13, and I’ll take the over. Final score 52-24 Green Bay over Atlanta.
Lacy, Cobb, Adams, & Nelson – I have a feeling every single one will be over 10 points.
Green Bay tight ends – Sure, one will catch a touchdown, but who? Richard Rodgers? Andrew Quarless? Brandon Bostick? Every one of them could but only one of them probably will and it is a dice roll as to who gets the points this week.
Steven Jackson – Green Bay’s run defense is rolling and Atlanta cannot run the ball. Add in the fact they will be throwing from behind and it spells a low rushing day for Jackson.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University