The Falcons have won three straight games against the Packers, but all of those have been in the comfort of an indoor stadium. This Sunday, Matt Ryan and company will travel to Green Bay for the first time since 2014.
Note: Assessments based on PFF ratings
In the trenches
What was once considered a strength for the Falcons has sadly become a detriment. Alex Mack is still playing well, but not up to his normally very high standards. Jake Matthews has arguably been the best lineman this year and is a top-10 tackle in the league. Unfortunately, the situation after that is sad. Ryan Schraeder has fallen off a cliff this year and the team is seriously contemplating giving Ty Sambrailo playing time. Wes Schweitzer is just ok at left guard while Zane Beadles doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence at right guard. This unit makes me sad.
The Packers have some quality players on the other side. Kenny Clark is a really good nose tackle who anchors this 3-4 unit. Dean Lowry is a strong run stopper while Mike Daniels offers more as a pass rusher. On the edges, Kyler Fackrell is the best pass rusher on the team with 8 sacks this season. Clay Matthews hasn’t been particularly good for a few years and Nick Perry is not having a great season either.
Until Atlanta can demonstrate that backups like Sambrailo and Beadles are quality depth, this is a unit that can’t be trusted.
The skill positions
Despite the rough season, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are still having very strong statistical seasons. Calvin Ridley has been great at times, but has also demonstrated a frustrating ability to drop the ball at the worst moments. Austin Hooper looks like a legit starting tight end. Mohamed Sanu can still make the tough catches, but his role ebbs and flows from game to game. In the backfield, Tevin Coleman hasn’t fully seized on the absence of Devonta Freeman, though the inconsistency of the offensive line hasn’t helped. Ito Smith has shown flashes of being a good runner, but he doesn’t get enough snaps to make a significant impact from game to game. This is a unit that can be highly successful, but much hinges on pass protection and run blocking.
Rookie CB Jaire Alexander looks like a quality player while on the other side, Josh Jackson has shown flashes of good play, but is inconsistent as a rookie. Safeties Kentrell Brice, Tramon Williams and Josh Jones are the definition of “meh.” This is a secondary that is missing a dominant player. In the middle of the defense, Blake Martinez has turned into a quality linebacker who is really good in coverage. Next to him, Antonio Morrison is a significant step down in quality.
Much hinges on the offensive line, but this match-up favors the Falcons if the guys up front can play just a bit better.
This game will depend largely on what the Falcons offensive line can do. If they can get out in front of the running game and keep Matt Ryan upright, the Falcons should be able to score. If they don’t, guys like Ryan and Julio may be kept in check by things outside their control. There are too many wild cards here to know what to expect.