Despite stringing together a couple of encouraging performances against Denver and Seattle, the Falcons defense was thrust back down to Earth in Week 7 when the San Diego Chargers torched them in a 33-30 Atlanta loss in overtime. Philip Rivers had his way with the young defense, passing for 371 yards and a touchdown. This week the defense holds the task of stopping Aaron Rodgers and the Packers of Green Bay.
There are a couple of match-ups that will define this game for Atlanta’s defense, but it all comes down to Aaron Rodgers and his ability (or lack thereof this season) to find the holes in Atlanta’s defense. Nonetheless, here is a breakdown for those match-ups, based on PFF player ratings.
In the trenches
Ok. I’ve got some good news and some bad news. Good news first: Vic Beasley has continued to progress and show signs of being a consistent pass rushing threat. Bad news: the Packers offensive line is pretty good and the Falcons defensive line is...inconsistent. Bryan Bulaga, David Bakhtiari, T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter have all been bright spots on what has been a pretty pedestrian offense, thus far.
In terms of the run game, the Packers average 104.8 yards a game with Eddie Lacey, who is now on IR after ankle surgery, so the Falcons job will be a little easier when it comes to stopping the run.
I would love to see the Falcons get a few sacks and tackles for a loss, but no one on the Green Bay offensive line is as
elite questionable as Joe Barksdale is in pass protection. The best bet for Atlanta is to make the Packers one dimensional and try and force Rodgers to beat them through the air—something he hasn’t really been able to do so far this season. As a whole, Green Bay should win the line of scrimmage.
Atlanta has a better chance in this matchup than they do in the trenches. This season, the Packers offense is not as explosive as they have been in previous years, and a big part of that is the performance of their wide receivers. Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers and Randall Cobb have not been able to create much separation, so the Falcons secondary should be able to keep this offense in check. I don’t really see anywhere on the outside that looks like a poor matchup for the Falcons--especially if Keanu Neal, Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole continue to lead the way with some pretty stellar play.
We know this Falcons defense is very young and inexperienced, but they are capable of flying around the field and creating some turnovers that impact the game. If Neal, Deion Jones and De’Vondre Campbell can stay focused and disciplined, the Falcons should win this matchup.
If this game were taking place in Green Bay or, more importantly, in the year 2010, I would be absolutely terrified for the Atlanta defense. However, with hopes that the defense has a bounce-back performance after getting killed last week, I think the defense plays well enough to win the game. Rodgers does not look like his normal self and he is really getting no help from his receivers or tight end.
While I don’t think they shut down the Packers offense, I think they play well enough to force a turnover or two and keep the offense out of some bad situations. In light of all of that...