Over the past several years, Matt Ryan has had some very good games against the Green Bay Packers. His dominating 2016 performances against them ring to mind. If the Falcons have any hope of beating Green Bay on Monday Night Football, the team is going to need one of those performances from him. Can they get it? Read on to find out.
In the trenches
Thankfully, if Matt Gono starts at right tackle again, he won’t have to face another Khalil Mack. Gono is probably still having nightmares about that experience. The good news is Kaleb McGary is progressing nicely and may be ready to play. As for the rest of the line, they’ve been a mixed bag. They were quite good against the Seahawks and Cowboys, but looked like a disaster against the Bears. They’re a terrible run blocking unit, so don’t expect that to change. Overall, they’re doing ok in pass blocking (as long as they aren’t facing the Bears) and they’re not the disaster they were in 2019.
The Packers do have stout run defenders in Tyler Lancaster and Kingsley Keke. Otherwise, this unit just doesn’t offer a whole lot in the front 3. Linebacker/Edge Za’Darius Smith is their best pass rusher while Preston Smith is a bit underwhelming across the board. This is nowhere near the unit that Dallas had or that we saw last week from the Bears. There’s not a marquee name in this group.
The lack of a dominant pass rusher and a bunch of good run defenders plays to the Falcons offensive line strength right now. While the running game probably won’t get going, Ryan should have time in the pocket.
The skill positions
For the Falcons, it’s all about who is going to be healthy. Julio Jones is practicing again, which is a great sign, but Calvin Ridley missed Thursday’s practice. If Russell Gage can’t make the game due to his concussion, Atlanta could be down 2 of it’s top receivers. Matt Ryan has been better this year, but it’s clear he has no chemistry with anyone outside of those 3 guys. The team needs to find ways to get Todd Gurley and Hunter Hurst more involved in the passing game if they’re down 2 starting receivers. If just one of Gage or Ridley does play, the unit gets a significant boost. We also need Brian Hill to not drop passes.
Green Bay does have a really good young corner in Jaire Alexander, who figures to match up with either Julio or Ridley (should he play). Kevin King and Chandon Sullivan, however, are players the Falcons may target frequently. The safety help of Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos are capable defenders, but are not what you’d consider an elite duo. Linebacker Krys Barnes is an undrafted rookie who will start in place of the injured Christian Kirksey. Similarly, Ty Summers - a 7th round pick from 2019 - may also see some playing time at linebacker.
It’s easy to see that this match up should heavily favor Atlanta, so long as they can get some guys healthy in time. The downgrade from Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley to Christian Blake and Olamide Zaccheaus can’t be overstated. Even still, just having Julio could give Atlanta the edge they need here.
Green Bay hasn’t done much to fix their defense and the fact that they’re missing some key starters doesn’t help. This matchup should favor the Atlanta offense strongly, but they really need 2 of their 3 starting receivers on the field on Monday. Right now, that’s no guarantee. Even still, Julio Jones combined with Hurst and Gurley in the passing game is more than enough to overwhelm this defense. Let’s see if Dirk Koetter actually figures out how to use them.