After outlasting Seattle in their first stop on the Mike McCarthy Playoff Loss Revenge Tour, the Packers take the chips on their shoulders to Atlanta, hopefully to spoil the Atlanta Falcons Grand Opening of the Mercedez-Benz Center. However, while Seattle was an anemic offense with the offensive line of a high school team, Atlanta is more explosive. But they also don’t have the defense of Seattle, which may even things out more. Let’s take a look at how the Packers can win.
In this article, and this series all season, we’ll take a look at 3 X-Factors (less obvious ones, not established superstars like Aaron Rodgers or Jordy Nelson), I’ll make 2 Bold Predictions, and then I’ll make the 1 prediction that matters: the score. So let’s dig in.
1. Davon House
Games like this are exactly why Davon House was brought back to the Packers. Three years ago, after Sam Shields struggled mightily in covering Julio Jones to the point where it looked like the NFL’s best receiver would break numerous league records, House stepped in and slowed him down. That second half performance was one of the best by a Packers corner in a long time and was likely part of why he got such a great contract from Jacksonville that offseason. And now that he’s back and had a week to shake off the rust from his preseason injury, he’ll likely draw the first crack at Jones. And he needs to have a good game to have any chance to slow down this Falcon offense.2
2. Lance Kendricks
The Falcons defense is young and ascending, and the one thing they have in abundance is speed, which will play well on their new field. But what they don’t have is the bulk to hang with many tight ends in the middle of the field, which makes the Packers three talented pass catching tight ends important. And while Atlanta will likely key one of their linebackers like Deion Jones on Martellus Bennett, which leaves some better mismatches for Kendricks, whose speed and agility are a great fit on the Atlanta turf.
3. Kenny Clark
Atlanta’s offense was the best in football last year and one of the best in the past decade, and it was built off the two headed monster at running back with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. They opened up everything for NFL MVP Matt Ryan, who then picked apart the secondaries on play action. All of those guys are back, a year stronger and a year better, which makes the Packers biggest second-year contributor that much more important. Clark was a force against Seattle and appears to be on the way to prime BJ Raji status, which is a huge boost to this defense. And he needs to play like the 2010 version of Raji to keep the Falcons running game in check, making it a little more difficult for Matt Ryan and company.
2 Bold Predictions
1. Atlanta’s Running Game averages less than 3 yards per carry
As stated above, the Falcons running game is among the best in the business, which makes things that much more difficult for the Packer defense. But this defense is equipped well to stop the run. The Seahawks, who build their entire offense off the run, could do nothing last week, however part of that was on their “offensive line.” The Falcons are better in every way offensively, but Green Bay’s defense is also better than last year, and don’t forget that they started 2016 on a historic pace for run defense. Those same guys are back and stronger, faster, smarter, which will help limit Freeman and Coleman to around 2.6 yard per carry.
2. Green Bay wins time of possession by over 8 minutes
Last week it was an insane time of possession advantage for the Packers offense, as they had an almost 20 minute advantage on the field. And while expecting that absurd advantage again is fool’s gold with Atlanta’s offense, the Packers could still control the clock. Atlanta is a quick strike offense and may be looking to make a statement early in this game to get the crowd really going. If they try those big plays, they’ll either get quick scores or a bunch of 3-and-outs, which plays in Aaron Rodgers’ favor. That is why the Packers will control time of possession again, this time by 8-9 minutes.
The Packers get to 2-0 with a 27-21 win over the Falcons.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.