The Falcons will travel to the frosty confines of Lambeau Field on Sunday to take on the Green Bay Packers. When I say "frosty," I mean it. The high on Sunday is 18 degrees, and the low is -1, so it's probably better for everyone that the NFL decided to flex the Panthers/Saints game to Sunday Night Football as opposed to the Falcons playing in Green Bay after the sun has gone down.
The Packers aren't having a great season, and they have many of the same reasons as the Falcons. They are missing, or have missed, a lot of key players on both sides of the ball. On defense, outside linebacker Clay Matthews missed several weeks with a broken thumb that required surgical repair. Offensively, tight end Jermichael Finley is on injured reserve after a neck injury stemming from a very scary hit, and receiver and return specialist Randall Cobb is out with a fractured bone in his lower leg. Their most notable injury is obviously to quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has practiced in a limited context this week. His status for Sunday's game is uncertain.
Green Bay's offense has been less effective with Rodgers out, as they have cycled through Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and now they've gone full circle back to Matt Flynn. While the Packers have been very successful running the ball this year, with Rodgers out and the passing game less of a threat, opponents have been able to more easily adjust to the run. The real problem, however, has been the Packers' defense.
Green Bay's defense has been pretty susceptible to the big passing play, giving up 47 plays of 20+ yards this season--five more than the Falcons, who have also been incredibly prone to giving up big plays. The Packers have just six interceptions on the season--the same number as the Falcons--and both the Falcons and the Packers are allowing passing plays to average 8.0 yards per completion.
The Packers are struggling against the run, allowing just 10 fewer yards per game than the Falcons. This is good news for a Falcons offense that has seen their productivity on the ground rise steadily over the past three games. The Falcons are averaging 81.1 yards per game for the season, but over the past three weeks, Atlanta has rushed for 152 yards against the Buccaneers, 91 yards against the Saints and 151 yards against the Bills, for a three-week average of 131.33 yards per game. They are certainly trending in the right direction, and this brings us to the first reason the Falcons need to win on Sunday.
1. Because they can.
Going into the season, when expectations for both teams were still very high, this looked like it might be one of the best games of the year. Here we are, in the midst of this catastrophe of a season, and the NFL doesn't even want to show this game in primetime. It's a sad state of affairs.
The Falcons need to win this game because they are in a position to take advantage of Green Bay's defensive weaknesses. Roddy White looks to be 100% healthy, meaning that teams will have to take him seriously when scheming, and the Falcons can use the speed of Darius Johnson and Harry Douglas to exploit the Green Bay secondary. It would be great to see Antone Smith pull off some explosive rushing plays against a Packers defense that is susceptible to them. A win on the road in a notoriously difficult stadium would be galvanizing for this team down the stretch.
2. Revenge, and other reasons.
The 2010 season ended poorly. The Falcons finished the regular season 13-3 with a first round bye. The Packers came to town and ruined everybody's night. Aaron Rodgers absolutely picked the Falcons apart. Chants of "Go Pack Go" rang through the Georgia Dome after many Falcons fans had given up on the team and left early. I didn't give up on the team. I stayed. The sound of that chant in our stadium will stay with me always. I did not enjoy it.
To add insult to injury, the Packers went on to win a Super Bowl. It hurt to watch.
Nose tackle B.J. Raji has been extremely whiny about the Falcons in the past, and if the Packers win, it just gives him more ammunition. Aaron Rodgers has a terrible mustache and worse State Farm commercials. Clay Matthews is always on television talking about Fatheads. If the Falcons don't win on Sunday, you'll think of the loss every time you see those guys on television. Nobody needs that.
3. For my sake.
My husband was born and raised in Wisconsin, and he, along with his entire family, are Packers fans. I am a very gracious winner, but when the Falcons lose, it is a different story. For the sake of family harmony and peace in my home this holiday season, the Falcons need to win, because I am a horrible, shamefully bitter loser.
Why do you think the Falcons need to win on Sunday?