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What to know about Falcons vs. Packers in Week 2

Fresh off a big win in Week 1, Atlanta gets a significant challenge in a feisty Green Bay squad.

Atlanta Falcons v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

One test down, a more difficult one on the way.

The Packers had to answer the core question of whether they were good enough to win with Jordan Love under center, something they did emphatically against a Chicago Bears team that drew a lot of buzz for the strength of its offseason. Well-coached and talented on both sides of the ball, the Packers figure to push the Lions and (maybe) the Vikings hard for the NFC North title this season. Before all that, though, they have to travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons.

This is an excellent test for both parties. Atlanta needs to tighten up their somewhat sloppy early play to hang on in this one, and have to show their passing attack isn’t as moribund as it looked at times on Sunday. Green Bay needs to show they can shut down an even more dominant rushing attack after handling Chicago’s well, and that they can get their ground game going after the Bears held them to an anemic 2.9 yards per carry. Mostly, these teams just want to win again after starting 1-0, with the Falcons really in need of it with Detroit and Jacksonville coming up next.

Here’s what you’ll need to know about this intriguing Week 2 matchup.

2023 rankings

Falcons - Packers Week 2 Rankings

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Surrendered
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Surrendered
Falcons 1-0 10 28 30 6 5 16 7 28 2 1
Packers 1-0 2 11 7 18 14 19 16 25 8 1

The Packers passed well a week ago and did not run as effectively; the Falcons ran it well and did not pass very effectively. Both of these teams avoided turnovers last week and did a nice job of creating turnovers; the Falcons had better luck defensively overall but were facing a less intimidating offense.

There’s no standout advantage here—there couldn’t be from Week 1 results alone—but if you wanted to say the Packers are a better passing attack and the Falcons a better rushing attack, I wouldn’t argue with you.

How the Packers have changed

They’re not a drastically different team than a year ago except at one of the most crucial positions on the field.

The Packers finally shipped disgruntled conspiracy theorist Aaron Rodgers out of town to the Jets, where he was hailed as a savior for four plays until he tore his Achilles, a brutal result for the quarterback and long-suffering New York fans. They replaced him with Jordan Love, a 2020 first round pick who has (like Rodgers before him) been marinating on the sidelines for years and dreaming of taking over. Still just 24 years old, Love is a talented passer who looked good against Chicago in his first start since the 2021 season. Green Bay is hoping they hit the jackpot yet again after close to three straight decades of high-end quarterback play.

Otherwise, the changes are at wide receiver (where Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb left to go chase wins with Rodgers in New York), right tackle (where Zach Tom has taken over as the full-time starter), and tight end (where the depth chart is completely overhauled) on offense. Defensively, they’ve mostly added instead of subtracted, with rookie Lukas Van Ness already looking dangerous as a pass rusher. They could be without the excellent Quay Walker at linebacker on Sunday, as he’s dealing with a concussion, and they did bid farewell to Adrian Amos at safety, setting them up to have to lean more heavily on special teams ace-turned-starter Rudy Ford than Packers fans would probably like.

This is a talented team that just needs quality quarterback play to contend in an uncertain NFC North, and it appears they may have that.

What to know about Sunday’s game

This is a much more difficult matchup than Carolina. Green Bay just showed very well against an admittedly disappointing Bears squad, with a deep and aggressive defense proving capable of shutting down even a consistently effective Bears rushing attack. Love is, by virtue of a lot of time developing and his own innate talent, ready for this moment, and he has weapons and a strong ground game of his own to lean on.

The Packers thus have balance even if Christian Watson isn’t certain to play or be 100% if he does play on Sunday, and the threat they pose through the air is far more intimidating than the Panthers could muster with rookie Bryce Young and a weakened receiving corps. The team did absurdly well at throwing the ball with a receiving corps essentially made up of rookies and a limited Romeo Doubs, with Acme Packing Company’s Justis Mosqueda chalking a lot of that success up to pre-snap motion that created some confusion in Chicago’s secondary. Especially if Watson is back in action, that could be lethal for Atlanta, and will demand great things from a (thankfully) very capable secondary.

The run defense has to be better, as well, given that Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon are a more capable duo than Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard, who just easily cleared 100 yards in Week 1. That will require improved discipline from Kaden Elliss and Troy Andersen—both were guilty of running really fast to nowhere at times in Week 1—and a better day from the defensive line, which did scuffle early on.

Defensively, Green Bay still let Justin Fields gash them for a handful of big runs, but nine carries for 59 yards isn’t game-breaking, especially when your backs manage just 63 yards on 19 carries. Chicago’s passing game wasn’t horrendous but it wasn’t very good, with Fields tossing an interception and only 216 yards on 37 attempts, all wrapped up in a neat little bow by Green Bay’s ability to get pressure and force a couple of turnovers. Chicago only scored 20 points and frankly they were a little lucky to get that.

For Atlanta, that kind of lackluster rushing production means death, full stop. Atlanta’s superlative run blocking, Arthur Smith’s ability and willingness to draw up effective plays, and the magic that Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson can provide likely to add up to a better showing than the Bears could manage. Whether it’s enough to keep them in the game or not will depend on the efficiency they can manage in those carries—too many unproductive early down carries will put Atlanta in rough spots on third down—as well as the balance.

The Falcons have to throw the ball more effectively against Green Bay, no easy task given the talent in that secondary and the strong front. The key will be exploiting favorable matchups against starting safety Rudy Ford, a notoriously poor tackler and hardly a coverage asset, and cornerback Keisen Nixon, who scuffled a bit against the Bears, and keeping Desmond Ridder relatively clean. For all this to work, Ridder needs time and needs to do a much more better job at making quick, smart decisions with where he’s going with the ball. The good news is that we know he’s capable of it—he showed flashes of that last year—and that this line can protect better than it did against Carolina. The nerve-making piece is that it all has to come together pretty quickly for Atlanta to win this one.

Hopefully this doesn’t sound too dire; I’m a believer in the talent in Atlanta and think we saw them win a game by two scores against Carolina that they barely had business winning by one after such a slow, crummy start to the game. Atlanta will just have to be sharp in all phases and limit mistakes to keep pace with what looks to be yet another very good Green Bay team.