The RiseUpdate: Week 2 vs Green Bay

Welcome to the Falcons RiseUpdate, a weekly column on all Atlanta Falcons news, injury reports, storylines, and a game preview/prediction for the upcoming game. This week marks the first game in the brand-new Mercedes Benz Stadium. The game will start at 8PM and will be aired on NBC. 

This week, the Falcons host the Green Bay Packers, who they defeated twice last season, once being in the NFC championship game. The banged-up Packers stood no chance against Atlanta, but this year is different, as a healthy and improved Packers’ team will clash against a faster defense and an offense with Steve Sarkisian as Offensive Coordinator.

Last Week:

It wasn’t pretty, but the Falcons started the season with a 23-17 win over the Chicago Bears. The Bears had four chances from the Falcons’ 5-yard line to win the game, but a few dropped passes and a clutch sack by Brooks Reed sent the Falcons home winners.

Notable stats:

M.Ryan: 21/30, 321 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT

Julio Jones: 4 catches, 66 yards

Austin Hooper: 2 catches, 128 yards (88-yard long), 1 TD

Brooks Reed: 2 sacks, 3 TFL

Vic Beasley Jr: 1 sack, 1 TFL

Devonta Freeman: 12 car, 37 yards

Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers

Injury Report:

The Falcons have the clear advantage with RB Brian Hill being the only name listed on the injury report.

Packers:

LB Ahmad Brooks (concussion) is doubtful.

Starting RT Bryan Bulaga (Ankle/Illness) is questionable. He didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday.

Starting LT David Bakhtiari (Hamstring) is questionable. He was limited all week long.

Starting DT Mike Daniels (Hip) is questionable. Not much is known about his status.

Keys to the Game:

1. Get to Rodgers and Get Him Down

Many believe (including me) that Aaron Rodgers is the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL. The Falcons have to pressure Rodgers and make the pocket uncomfortable or Rodgers will make his receivers look unstoppable. If Rodgers has a clean pocket, he’s the best in the league at hitting his receivers in stride.

The Falcons had four sacks last week (T-4 in NFL), but missed many opportunities to bring Mike Glennon down more than they did. If they can’t bring down Rodgers, Green Bay will walk out with a win. Rodgers is the best in the NFL when he gets out of the pocket, as his accuracy and mobility make him lethal. The Falcons’ speed should help with limiting Rodgers, but all eyes have to be on #12.

The Falcons should have an easier time pressuring Rodgers with the offseason acquisitions of Dontari Poe and Takk McKinley. Also, starting LT David Bakhtiari and RT Bryan Bulaga might not play.

2. No Missed Tackles

The Falcons missed 11 tackles last week, which was one of the main reasons they almost lost. Aaron Rodgers is so great that he will create extra opportunities for the Packers, so the Falcons can’t afford to give Rodgers more of them. The Packers have an improved receiving core then when they came to Atlanta last January, so making open field tackles will be at the upmost importance.

Martellus Bennett (TE) and Ty Montgomery (RB) are both mismatches for most defenses, but the Falcons speed and size on defense might make them an exception. But regardless, they will get their receptions, it’s just a matter of whether the Falcons can bring them down right after the catch. The Packers will also bring a healthy receiving core of Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb.

3. Feed the Running Backs

Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman only recieved 26 touches combined last week, which is not enough for the dynamic duo. The Packers put constant pressure on Russell Wilson (granted Seattle’s offensive line is the worst in the NFL), but if Matt Ryan wants to have a clean pocket, running the ball (especially outside runs that pull edge rushers) and throwing to Freeman/Coleman will negate that.

The Falcons’ zone scheme is based off of the run, because the run allows the Falcons to run play action and bootlegs, which is the bread and butter of the Falcons offense. If the Falcons turn one-dimensional, their bootlegs won’t be as effective. The more touches both Coleman/Freeman get, the more attention gets placed on them and away from dangerous wide receivers like Taylor Gabriel, Mohamed Sanu, and of course, Julio Jones.

Plus, Seattle was able to run for 90 yards with the worst offensive line in football versus the Packers last week. The Packers run defense isn’t very effective, and it could get worse due to the injury of Mike Daniels. Daniels is questionable with a hip injury and might not play.

Prediction:

Green Bay Packers: 24 Atlanta Falcons: 31

I think the Falcons offense comes out firing on all cylinders, large in part because I think they will feed Coleman and Freeman. The early momentum, and the home opener (first game in MBS), in my opinion, will fuel the defense to some early stops. I think the Packers will make a comeback and regain the lead in the fourth quarter, but a late drive by Matt Ryan and a big sack/turnover will end the Packers’ hopes.

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To read last week’s RiseUpdate, click here.

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