Early Bird Breakdown Week 14 – Falcons @ Packers

Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown. It’s week 14 of the season, last week the Packers hosted the Cardinals. Before going into this week’s match up we will take a look back at the recap.

The Recap:

The Packers showed all of their deficiencies last week. The Cardinals, with an offense that was the worst offense the NFL has had since 2005, outscored an Aaron Rodgers led team. The offense for the Packers was anemic. Things were bad enough Mike McCarthy did not even make it out of Sunday before being fired. The Cardinals won 20-17. 

The Breakdown:

Packers’ Offense vs Falcons’ Defense:

Many of the Packers issues on offense attributed to McCarthy likely will not be fixed this week versus the Falcons. While playcalling may improve under interim head coach Joe Philbin that remains to be seen. In Miami his playbook was less imaginative than McCarthy’s and he did not inspire a lot of confidence in the locker room. Having said that, he may have noticed just how good Aaron Jones has been lately so this will be the first clue as to how balanced he wants to be. 

The Falcons the last four weeks have been getting slashed against the run and their line has generated virtually no pass rush. The offense should run smoothly in a game where emotionally the Packers should be bringing their A-Game to prove a point. 

If Aaron Rodgers will play better remains to be seen. He has been holding the ball a bit too long this season and while short looks may be open, Philbin will not have a playbook yet to scheme them open. Perhaps with the porous pass rush the Falcons have the fact Rodgers has been holding the ball too long will not be punished this week. If so, Rodgers should likely have a huge bounce back game on the weekend after McCarthy’s firing just to prove a point. 

Packers’ Defense vs Falcons’ Offense:

The defensive line has not been the only line folding lately for the Falcons. It seems week in and week out in the last four games they have struggled to generate any push for the run and cannot keep Matt Ryan a stable pocket. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has done a good job this season, but will likely try to get the absolute maximum out of his players and possibly use creative playcalling with his future in doubt if a new head coach wants to bring in a whole new staff. 

I expect Pettine will try and use press coverage and heavy blitz looks to rattle Ryan early. Julio Jones has historically been a nightmare for the Packers, but Jaire Alexander should do a good enough job containing him for the pressure to get home first before Jones will get a chance to get open. 

The Weather:

The weather will clear skies and a cool 29 degrees at kickoff. With the Falcons used to the warm dome this time of year, this should give the Packers an edge. 

The Prediction:

Now I know Packers fans and players do not have anything to be enthused about with regards to the recent performance the team has on the field. However, the Falcons fans are in the same boat. The Packers are 1-3 in the last four games played and the Falcons 0-4. Both teams have only 4 wins total on the season. For the most part, this game in the long term will help the loser more than the winner because there are 11 teams fighting for picks 3-13 all within 3-5 wins. This is a game however I do expect the Packers to win, simply because of spite. I think every player feels a bit of a spotlight on them to prove it was not their fault for the record. Rodgers likely will want to show up big to be able to point the finger at McCarthy for any struggles this season. While Philbin taking over will not fix the largest offensive issues with the playbook and schemes, playcalling potentially could improve and show more balance. In a battle of two teams struggling recently, I think the Packers win 31-24 in a statement for the post-McCarthy era. 

As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University