The Atlanta Falcons (5-7), who are surprisingly first in the NFC South with just five wins, visit the NFC North Division leading Green Bay Packers (9-3) in week 14 of Monday Night Football. The Pack has won four straight, including a major 26-21 victory against New England last Sunday. In that same four-week period, the Falcons are three-and-four, with their one loss coming from their meeting with the Browns 26-24 two weeks ago. They beat Arizona 29-18 last Sunday and in the past four weeks also took down Tampa Bay and Carolina.
Keys for Atlanta
In order to win, QB Matt Ryan (21 TDs, 10 INTs, 24 Sacks) will need to connect with two different receivers on Monday night, and he will have to do so consistently. They are WR Julio Jones (1,169 YDs, 14.3 YPC, 5 TDs) and WR Roddy White (662 YDs, 11.8 YPC, 5 TDs). RB Antone Smith, who has 2 catching scores and 2 rushing touchdowns, will be the wild card in the mix. Although the passing game is considered to be Atlanta’s bread and butter, they will also need some output from their primary RB Steven Jackson (668 YDs, 3.8 YPA, 5 TDs).
One of the best things that the Atlanta defense does is force fumbles. To date, they have a dozen FFs and 10 recoveries. They also have a penchant for stopping the run. However, no other D in the NFL gives up as many passing yards as the Flacons, and they are going up against the man who many consider to be the best quarterback and passer in the league. If anyone needs to have a big game on defense tomorrow, it’s Atlanta LB Paul Worrilow (67 Solo Tkls, 111 Total Tkls, 2 Sacks, 2 FF).
The Falcons would be advised to push the run at the start. This should help loosen the Green Bay defense a bit. If RB Steven Jackson can get some decent gains early on, that could go a long way to opening up the field for QB Matt Ryan. Also, although Green Bay is better than average against the air ball, the Falcons have a lot of depth at receiver that they may be able to exploit. The big question is can the Atlanta offensive line keep the Packer linemen and linebackers at bay long enough for Ryan to get his passes off?
Keys for Green Bay
It’s obvious to say the QB Aaron Rodgers (32 TDs, 3 INTs, 26 Sacks) will be a major factor in this contest. He’s been amazingly accurate this season, connecting on 66.3% of his passes and earning a rating of 118.6. Like Atlanta, the Packers emphasize the air attack. Jordy Nelson (1,119 YDs, 16.0 YPC, 10 TDs) and Randall Cobb (922 YDs, 14.2 YPC, 10 TDs) are Rodgers’ go-to pass receivers, while three other Green Bay receivers have each caught 3 touchdown passes. Rodgers has a lot of choices when it comes to receivers, and that fact results in the Packers breaking down opponent pass defenses. The running game, which is spearheaded by Eddie Lacy (770 YDs, 4.4 YPA, 6 TDs), is a secondary component in the Packer offense. Lacy is effective, however, he is also prone to fumbling.
The Packers’ defense offers a solid quarterback rush. LB Clay Matthews leads the sack attack with 4.5, while DE Mike Daniels (4.0) isn’t far behind. The team has garnered a total of 28 QB takedowns. Plus, the Packer defense has a total of 15 INTs, with CB Casey Howard leading the way with three, and 11 forced fumbles, with 8 recovered. This is a solid defense, which tends to do better against the pass than the run.
Expect Aaaron Rodgers to open up against the Atlanta secondary right from the start and to unload long passes often. The Packers are a very good big play team, and they are especially successful in the air. The good news for Green Bay is that the secondary is the weakest part of the Falcon defense.
How This Game Looks
This contest may be similar to last week’s game, where despite what the Packers did the New England Patriots kept coming back. But don’t expect the Falcons to do such numerous times. The fact is if they cannot respond successfully to a Green Bay score, this game will quickly elude the Falcons. They simply aren’t deep enough or varied enough to come back from a big deficit or to respond to numerous successful drives by the Packers.
The spread has Green Bay at -11.5. That is a major advantage. Can the Falcons beat the spread? Can the Falcons win this game outright? Their defense simply isn’t tough enough to win this game. But their offense will put enough points on the board to keep it interesting. The spread is big, but, then again, recently the Pack scored over 50 points against both the Eagles and the Bears. Green Bay can cover in this game.