I don’t think many people are feeling super confident about the upcoming Monday Night Football matchup between the Falcons and the Packers, and I’m certainly one of those people who harbors significant doubts about Atlanta’s ability to get this done.
That said, it’s not an impossible dream, and as usual the Falcons’ ability to pass their way to wins and near-wins will define this one. Green Bay is potentially going to be without Davante Adams and Allen Lazard in this one, which might slow their attack a bit, and the Falcons might have their top three receivers all back on the field at the same time to wreak havoc. I’ll be tuning in (and likely bellyaching) about this one, but hopefully Atlanta at least gives us an enjoyable game to watch.
Here’s why I’m feeling confident about Atlanta and why the dread sets in as soon as I stop thinking about it.
Feel confident that the Falcons will pass (again, and a lot)
I think I’ve used this as my reason three out of four weeks thus far, with a brief break for the Falcons pass rush in Week 2, which was very good early on before injury and the inevitable slowdown hit. Atlanta’s passing attack is simply always the best thing about this team, and when it’s a bit off like it was against Chicago, the Falcons are typically in trouble.
Green Bay has a decent but not stellar defense, with enough pass rushing horsepower to cause problems for Matt Ryan if the line isn’t up to snuff, but without the elite secondary that could take advantage of a shakier day from #2. If Julio Jones and Russell Gage are back and Calvin Ridley is healthy, there are simply too many weapons for Green Bay to hold in check. Remember, the Packers have allowed 85 points, or about 28 points per game, and they have yet to face an offense as good as Atlanta’s. I don’t worry at all about the Falcons hitting 300 yards and putting up points through the air.
Worry about this Packers offense humiliating Atlanta
I worry about pretty much everything else. Will Elliott Fry be able to hit a pressure field goal? Will Dirk Koetter be able to put Todd Gurley and Brian Hill in situations to take advantage of a so-so Green Bay run defense? And most importantly, can this defense stop the Packers?
I’m dubious about that last one in the extreme. Green Bay is the #1 scoring offense in the entire NFL and is still a formidable passing attack even if Adams and Lazard don’t suit up. That would be enough of a problem if it wasn’t for Aaron Jones, who has been absolutely lights out as a runner thus far in 2020 and figures to continue to be great. He’ll sorely test this pretty effective Falcons run defense.
And that’s what I worry about: This is a test for a fully healthy, actually effective Falcons defense, and that’s not close to what Atlanta is actually putting on the field in 2020. The Packers have the capacity and the desire to annihilate the Falcons, especially with Matt LaFleur having a little motivation to beat his former team, and we just haven’t seen this defense come up with the kind of full-game effort it’s going to take to beat them.
If anything’s going to make Monday a long night, it’s this, and I worry that things are going to go from bad to worse for a Falcons team that’s already in an 0-3 hole.