Week 1 is in the books folks, and what a week it was! The Packers came out of the first matchup of the season with a giant W against one of the most formidable teams in the NFC. But no rest for the Packers this week as they travel down to Atlanta for a rematch of last years NFCCG. This game will be huge test and a chance for sweet revenge against another very talented opponent, with that let’s take a look at this weeks game against the Atlanta Falcons!
THREE BURNING QUESTIONS
Will the defense continue to hold up?
In week 1 against the Seattle Seahawks the Packers defense looked absolutely terrific. The pass rush had Russel Wilson running for his life for most of the afternoon and stuffed the run game pretty well no matter who was carrying the ball. Part of this was due to poor play by the offensive line by the Seahawks but the dominant play by Mike Daniels and Nick Perry made life easier on the entire defense. This week’s opponent will pose a much bigger challenge though. Last season the offensive unit of the Atlanta Hawks was downright dominant and the Packers defense couldn’t keep up. The offensive line will be much more stout and the receivers will be much more difficult to contain. If we can have a repeat performance by the front seven and keep Matt Ryan and Devonta Freeman from getting into rhythm the Packers defense could be in for another huge night.
Will the Packers stay committed to the run?
Last week against the Seattle Seahawks Ty Montgomery had 19 carries for 54 yards on the ground. During the first half he wasn’t having much success but head coach Mike McCarthy stayed committed to the ground game and by the end of the game it paid off. By the end of the game Monty was able to finally break through Seattle’s vaunted front seven to get some nice gains and burn clock, helping to secure the win.
If McCarthy continues his willingness to pound the rock there should be even better results this week. Although Atlanta’s defense isn’t awful they are nowhere near the caliber of defense the Packers faced in week 1. An effective run attack will be key to controlling the game and opening up the rest of the offense.
Can the offensive line give Rodgers time?
Although the Falcon’s defense isn’t the most dominant unit in football; their pass rush is nothing to be ignored. Last season Vic Beasley, Atlanta’s top edge rusher, led the NFL in sacks. They also added Takkarist McKinley in the draft this spring making them even more formidable. The Packers have one of the best pass blocking starting offensive lines in the NFL which would normally negate the pass rush pretty well.
This week however starting tackle Bryan Bulaga seems unlikely to play for the second week in a row and stalwart left tackle David Bakhtiari has been nursing an injury this week in practice. Last week backup right tackle Kyle Murphy performed as well as could be expected but had some rough moments. The first half of last week’s game Aaron Rodgers was under pressure pretty consistently with much of it coming from the right side. The half ended with Rodgers taking four sacks. In the second half the protection really stepped up though. Rodgers wasn’t sacked at all and the offense was able to move the ball enough to score and keep the Hawks offense off the field. With any luck this will continue and Rodgers will have enough time to get the ball to his talented receivers.
2 KEY MATCHUPS
Julio Jones vs Davon House
Over the last few season Julio Jones has become one of the most dominant offensive weapons across the league and he is integral to the success of the Falcons offense. Last year Ladarius Gunter did a very admirable job of trying to contain this freak of nature but ultimately he ran wild over the Packers secondary. But now Gunter is gone and House has returned back to Green Bay and will likely draw the unenviable task of shadowing Jones for much of the game. House was out for most of the preseason but looked very good last week in coverage and hopefully that trend continues into this week. The success of the pass rush will be critical to containing Jones but ultimately it is House and other members of the secondary who will need to step up and make sure he doesn’t toast the Packers all night.
The offensive line vs the Falcons pass rush
We’ve already taken a look at this one a little but the importance of keep Rodgers clean in the pocket cannot be overstated. An effective pass rush can tilt a game in one team’s favor no matter which team is overall more talented. Although Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the game at avoiding pass rushers and extending plays with his legs; he is at his best when given ample time to pick a defense apart. The run game will be very important at keeping the defense honest and not allowing them to wind up and tee off at the quarterback every play, but it will come down to the offensive line to give Rodgers time to do what he does best.
1 BOLD PREDICTION
This week is going to be another good one for the Packers front 7. This unit looked dominant last week and that trend will continue into this week. The Falcons offensive line is good but i believe the front end of the Packers defense is even better. They’ll consistently pressure Matt Ryan all game long and end up sacking him at least 7 times. At least one will come from both Nick Perry and Clay Matthews. I also know for sure that Mike Daniels will be harassing the offense all night but I have a feeling that Kenny Clark will ultimately end up with bigger numbers in the box score. Daniels will demand double teams the entire game which will open things up for everyone else and make things much easier on the rest of the defense.
GO PACK GO