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Week 4 preview: Falcons vs. Packers

Still looking for win number one, Atlanta travels to the frozen tundra on Monday night.

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

It is without a doubt a tough place to gain your first win of the season. On the national stage, nonetheless.

All of that aside, the battered Atlanta Falcons will attempt to put everything together on offense and defense and pick up their first win of the season against one of the best teams in all of football. To say that the Falcons are banged up is an understatement, but they do receive some key members back from injury with hopes of turning things around in what has been a very disappointing season so far.

Let’s preview the Monday night battle between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers.

About their opponent

The Packers have also endured their share of impactful injuries also. But despite that, the offense, led by two-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers, has racked up points on the scoreboard. The unit ranks first in the NFL in points per game scored at 40.7 points per game. Falcons fans probably appreciate the Packers going on the road last week in New Orleans and hanging 37 points on the Saints to remain undefeated at 3-0.

As mentioned, the Packers are a bit hobbled with receiver Allen Lazard placed on IR due to a core injury and veterans such as receiver Davante Adams, corner Jaire Alexander, and linebacker Za’Darius Smith all banged up and listed as questionable.

Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Key matchups

Falcons defensive line vs. Packers offensive line - The main game plan for most if not all defenses when the Packers are the opposition is to contain Rodgers the best way possible. In some cases, it is implementing smart coverage on the back end to eliminate options for him. For others, it is simply getting to him and making him extremely uncomfortable.

The Falcons have done such in past matchups against Green Bay and it should be the focal point once again. After being a porous offensive line unit in 2019, the Packers are second in the NFL in sacks allowed per game at just 0.7. Ironically, the Falcons are one team that struggles bringing down the quarterback. This has to change or else Rodgers will do away with the Falcons defense on his own.

Falcons OC Dirk Koetter vs. Packers DC Mike Pettine - On the surface, the Packers are okay in certain aspects on defense. But one stat stands out to me that is worth keeping an eye on. The Packers are dead last in the NFL in yards per play allowed. That’s right. Dead last. The Packers allow 6.6 yards per play, and have done such against the Vikings, Lions, and Saints.

Facing a Falcons offense that averages 5.9 yards per play and appears to have Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage all back on the field for this matchup. Koetter has shown a few flashes here and there as a play caller this season but consistency is severely lacked. Koetter goes against an opposing unit that has given up a decent chunk of yards this season. Hopefully, he can take advantage.

Analytical outlook

I get it. The Falcons have a plethora of weapons that are able to score points at will. But one thing that escapes me every single time is the lack of sustained drives by the Falcons that eat up clock and result in touchdowns, especially when Atlanta needs it most.

Prior to week four, here were the top 10 offenses in time of possession per drive (in order): Green Bay, Indianapolis, New England, LA Rams, Kansas City, San Francisco, Buffalo, Las Vegas, LA Chargers, Miami. Teams that were a combined 21-9 prior to week four of the NFL season. My point of it all is that offenses with various schemes have learned how to have successful drives with less three-and-outs and show the ability to control the clock. Which is something that can help a Falcons defense that is woeful overall. Plus keeps Mr. Rodgers on the bench, watching from afar.

Final thought

Whatever playoff hopes the Falcons have at this point, it is on life support. It does not help to not have a break in the schedule and instead they draw an MVP candidate so far in a place that the Falcons have not had the best of luck in. As a matter of fact, in their last ten road games against the Packers (including playoffs), the Falcons are 3-7. This is not a home away from home by any means.

If the Falcons are fighting for their playoff lives this early in the season, they need to play like it. Aggressiveness on offense and defense and the coaches themselves need to show a bit of grit as well with their approach. For the sake of all Falcons fan everywhere, if the Falcons develop a lead, protect it. At all costs. But if this contest gets ugly, it might turn into combustion on national television, and it’d put the Falcons at 0-4 in a division where every other team is .500 or above.