After a semi-solid win over the struggling NFC North rival Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers head to Georgia to take on the Falcons. Green Bay hopes to continue their success as they embark on their first of four away games in the next five weeks. And it’s safe to say that this will be the biggest test for these Packers. Here’s how Green Bay can join the Elite:

Melt Matty Ice

Let’s face it. Julio Jones is good. Really good. Green Bay’s secondary, on the other hand, is hurt. Really hurt. So how does a defense battered with injuries to their top three corners successfully cover the NFL’s leading receiver? Press coverage? Double team? No, it starts up front.

The front three or four must get into full bull-rush mode. If we can penetrate the backfield with only three or four, the rest of the defense will have opportunity to drop the rest into coverage, allowing them to keep that receiving core at bay. It’s as simple as that. Force Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan into quick throws off the back foot and he’s likely to overthrow receivers and potentially turn the ball over. Or we can just keep it simple and sack him!

So far this season, Ryan has been sacked 18 times which is 26th in the league. Only the Dolphins, the Lions, the Browns, the Bengals, and the Colts offensive lines have allowed more sacks. Keep him on the ground and take away his ability to throw. Because the man can throw. On the season, Ryan has already thrown for 2,348 yards, 16 touchdowns, and only 4 interceptions. Completing 67.6% of his passes, he is a dangerously good quarterback playing at a high level.

Keep Julio Down by The Schoolyard

Safe to say this is the biggest concern heading into the matchup in the Georgia Dome. The last time the Packers faced off against the Falcons, Jones put up a masterful 11 catch, 259 yard showing. When the two teams meet again, the Packers will need to try something – anything – different to keep this guy down. The problem with this is that Green Bay will, again, be without their top three cornerbacks: Sam Shields (concussion), Damarious Randall (groin), and Quinten Rollins (groin). This leaves second year player Ladarius Gunter with the unfortunate duty of covering Jones.

The one thing Gunter has going for him is that he has the size to matchup with Jones. At 6’2, Gunter is the tallest of the Green Bay corners and stacks up well with 6’3 Jones.

“It should help me a lot because he’s a handsy guy,” Gunter said. “he’s a big, strong guy, and I feel like I can match up well with him.”

Earlier this month, Gunter and the Packers secondary managed to hold New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham to only five catches for 56 yards. They also held lengthy Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery to only 3 catches for 33 yards. But Beckham and Jeffery don’t stack up to Julio Jones.

The Packers will probably approach Jones the same they did with Beckham. Expect a lot of two-shell looks, with both safeties deep. If they can pressure Ryan and cover Jones, they’ll have a chance. If not, then we will just have to pray.

“The week of the game, every night before you go to bed, you’ve got to pray,” defensive back Micah Hyde said. “Game day, you’ve got to wake up, you’ve got to pray. He’s just one of those guys that can get it done in all aspects of the game.”

Ready or not…Julio Jones is coming…

School Is in Session

The most effective way to slow down Atlanta’s #1 ranked offense is to control the clock and keep the ball out of their hands. And the best way to do that is run the ball. This game is the perfect opportunity to get running game back on track. After a 10-day mini-bye the backs have had the extra time to get up to speed.

Knile Davis, who was acquired by the Kansas City last Tuesday, spent the entire week working with running backs coach Ben Sirmans to catch up on the offense. Along with spending time with Sirmans, Davis has also been working with backup quarterback Brett Hundley on picking up all the subtleties of the offense. His previous experience in a West Coast system has helped his transition, but picking up all the communication and understanding the running backs role in the passing game is paramount.

“We did some cramming,” said Davis with a smile. “I feel more comfortable with it. It’s not like it was last week.”

Don Jackson and Ty Montgomery spent their time with quarterback Aaron Rodgers prior to the game against the Bears and continued that heading into this week’s game.

“Just the details – his verbal cues, his body language, the way he operates the offense,” Jackson said. “It’s different for every quarterback. The way he manages the game, he was trying to fill me in on everything. He gave me good advice – feel like you belong.”

The plan appears to be playing Jackson quite a bit more than they did. His early exit in the Chicago game was due to a hand injury he acquired in the second quarter. The good news for the undrafted rookie out of Nevada is tests showed no significant damage and he could practice with extra padding on his hand.

The snap breakdown for these three players will be fascinating on Sunday. Ty Montgomery will continue to see an expanded role in the offense. Jackson will see something around 20 snaps and Davis around 15. At this point, it will be a “ride the hot hand” kind of situation.

Conclusion

There is a lot at stake for both teams. Green Bay is 4-2 and completely depleted in the secondary and at running back. Atlanta is 4-3 after a 4-1 start and is trying to not repeat last year’s debacle after a 6-1 start. The winner will join NFC’s elite. The loser must seriously consider their playoff chances. Green Bay’s struggling offense can come alive against an Atlanta defense that ranks 31st in pass defense and 26th in total defense. Atlanta will likely look to exploit the injury riddled secondary of Green Bay. Ladies and Gentlemen, close your windows, get the children in the basement, and sound the alarm. An air attack is coming!

 

Prediction

Green Bay 42-38 Atlanta Falcons


 

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