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Falcons defense vs. Packers offense: An entirely different defensive unit

This defense gives me the warm and fuzzies.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

In the first game of the season in Mercedes Benz Stadium, the Atlanta Falcons defense showed great promise against the Carolina Panthers. With new names on each level of the defense, there are almost always a few stumbles out of the blocks until the team gains a level of comfort with each other and learns to play together.

Against the 2023 NFL draft first overall pick Bryce Young and the Panther offense, it didn’t take very long. While the pass rush was stagnant until the second half, the secondary unit played very well. While being disciplined in their coverage responsibilities, they were also opportunistic and managed to force some turnovers, all of which were sparked by new acquisition Jesse Bates III.

There is certainly a feeling that as the season progresses, this unit will get better and better in all phases. This coming Sunday, the defense gets a new test when they play the Green Bay Packers and new QB1 Jordan Love. Let’s take a closer look at the position groups and how the Falcons match up against the Packers.

In the trenches

This Packers offensive line is led by two very solid bookend tackles in David Bakhtiari and Zach Tom, both of whom had good days against the Chicago Bears. In all actuality, the entire OL unit is very experienced and deep, and that’s needed when you run the type of offense that Coach Matt LaFleur likes to run. I saw many really criticize the Bears’ defensive front for putting in a poor performance, but there’s plenty to like about what the Packers do up front offensively.

For the first time in quite a while, I’m very encouraged about the overall depth of the defensive line in Atlanta. Grady Jarrett finally has some great help, and offenses can’t solely game plan to contain him. David Onyemata’s presence was felt inside by Bryce Young, and it’s easy to see that he and Jarrett are beginning to work well with each other. Calais Campbell also had some solid reps against the Panthers.

If the Falcons are to shake Jordan Love, it’s likely to happen on the interior, because the EDGE room as it is currently may have some issues going against the Packers’ tackles. However, this is the first time in an eternity it seems that I can say I feel good about our chances on the interior. That being stated, the Packers’ front has more continuity, so they get the edge.

Advantage: Packers

The Skill Positions

The Packers really baffle me at times when it comes to the wide receiver position. There’s absolutely some talent there with Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, but they don’t really seem to want to invest significant capital into the group. That being stated, the WRs have some elite size, and the speed is absolutely there with Watson.

The depth there is questionable, but they absolutely make up for it with their RB group. Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are some versatile backs that can hurt teams in multiple ways, between the tackles, outside the tackles, and as receiving options. Against the Packers, how the linebacker corps performs for the Falcons will be vital to their success.

This Atlanta Falcons secondary group has the potential to be among the top five in the league. There is so much to like about this group.

The big free agent signee in Jesse Bates III is every bit as good as advertised, and absolutely worth the salary he was awarded by the team. Bates’ football IQ, instincts, coverage ability and ball skills are all elite, and he is physical against the run. Having Bates just elevates everyone’s play on the back end. Richie Grant played well also, and he seems very comfortable in his role opposite Bates.

AJ Terrell is AJ Terrell, but even he seems more confident knowing that Bates is in the middle of the field. There are so many players to note that did well on the back end, and it’s been a long time coming.

Right now, the only question is about the linebacker corps. Both Elliss and Andersen had solid games, but Andersen did overrun some plays that led to big runs. If he can learn to play a bit more under control and disciplined in his run fits and in coverage, he will take this unit to another level. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but because of Bates and the possibility of Okudah being back this week—and even if he isn’t, I like this secondary against the Packers’ weapons—I’m giving the Falcons the edge.

Advantage: Falcons


It’s a new year when it comes to this Falcons defense, and I like what I’m seeing. Jordan Love had a good day against the Bears, but it’s likely that he’ll have a tougher go of it against Atlanta. While the secondary will be challenged, it feels good to feel and know that they’ll be up to the challenge given the talent and depth that exists back there now for the Falcons.

Where this game will ultimately be decided is in the trenches (big surprise, right?). While the Falcons clearly looked better in pass defense, they still gave up quite a bit of rushing yards against the Panthers. Defensive Coordinator Ryan Nielsen is likely pretty livid over that stat, and I’m sure that will be a point of emphasis. I also expect Nielsen to be a bit more aggressive up front with stunts and blitzes.

If the Falcons can make the Packers one-dimensional and make Jordan Love uncomfortable, they have a good chance of controlling this game. Given that the Falcons have yet another home game and the Benz stadium had more life for the first time in a very long time, I’m giving the Falcons the slight edge to go 2-0.

Advantage: Falcons