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Opponent by the Numbers: Atlanta Falcons Week 14

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Opponent by the Numbers: Atlanta Falcons Week 14

Finally, the Packers get to face a team with a fanbase as depressed as theirs.

Imagine being a Falcons fan.

This franchise already had the national reputation of choking under pressure. No matter how talented the team is or how promising the season may seem, Falcons fans wait for the inevitable collapse. It’s similar to the mindset of the pre-2004 Red Sox fan.

But imagine the combined hope and paranoia of Atlanta fans when they led the Patriots 28-3 in the Super Bowl two years ago. I think most Packers fans have yet to fully recover from the NFC Championship collapse in Seattle four years ago. A Super Bowl failure of that caliber could take decades to move on from.

There are similarities between these teams this year as well. The Falcons have a very good veteran quarterback whose counting stats are good this year, just not MVP-caliber. The offense is good, but a far cry from the machine it was two years ago. On paper, the Falcons seem like a good team.

Yet they’re 4-8.

A 1-4 start had to have hit like a ton of bricks, yet the Falcons dug in and responded by winning three straight games. Once they clawed back to .500, Atlanta lost four straight, and they enter this game with their season basically in the bag.

There’s nothing significant at stake, so let’s just root for a Packers win for the pure joy of it. The culture around sports has gravitated toward a championship-or-bust mentality, but let’s not forget the simple bliss of a Victory Monday.


Great googly-moogly. The Falcons managed just 131 yards of total offense in last week’s 26-16 loss to the Ravens. That doesn’t even include the 82 penalty yards conceded by the Falcons in the game. The box score from this game is incredible.

Atlanta’s running game basically didn’t exist, but perhaps most damning, and familiar to Packers fans, is the pitiful inefficiency of Matt Ryan in the passing game. In 29 total dropbacks he threw for 131 yards and lost 34 yards on three sacks. That’s 3.34 net yards per attempt from a former MVP! That’s worse than the NFL’s worst rushing team’s yards per carry.

For context, Aaron Rodgers’ flaccid game against Arizona last week was more than a yard better at 4.45 net yards per attempt: still gross, but not quite as horrifying. The difference may be that Ryan’s pitiful game came against Baltimore’s elite defense.


As previously mentioned, Matt Ryan’s counting stats have been pretty good, much like Aaron Rodgers’. Ryan’s 109.3 passer rating is the sixth best in the league this year, yet his team is 4-8. It is notable that the Falcons’ defense has been injury-riddled and terrible (more on this later) and they’ve still been in some close games, but I start to wonder if there’s a trend emerging in the NFL.

The league has made rule changes so advantageous for passing offense, that I’m not sure traditional quarterback stats are indicative of winning anymore. Clever offensive coaches can generate near-elite production from decent-to-good quarterbacks.

The very top of the passer rating leaderboard follows the top of the NFL standings pretty well: Drew Brees, Pat Mahomes, Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and Jared Goff. But the rest of the top-10 is a mixed bag of quarterbacks who’ve had different narratives and wildly varying team success: Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Cam Newton. Aaron Rodgers is 11th.

A decade ago, good quarterback play seemed to guarantee playoff contention. Now it seems to be the standard, and winning teams separate themselves in other ways.


The Falcons’ defense is dead-last in the NFL, with a defensive DVOA of 16.9 percent. That is to say that opposing offenses are about 17 percent more successful play-for-play than league average. Key injuries early in the year have really hurt Atlanta’s defense, and they’ve proven to be too thin to recover.

But we learned last week that this Packers team can surprise against even seemingly helpless foes.

It’s been strange to see the Packers making national headlines for off-the-field news. That always felt like something other teams do—not us. It will be good to get back to actual football.

The Packers’ offense should be able to move the ball on this defensive unit. Maybe Aaron Rodgers can find himself or perhaps Aaron Jones will have a career day. There’s a chance that Joe Philbin’s playcalling will be a breath of fresh air. But keep some spiked egg nog handy, just in case.


Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (26) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Lare's picture

I think we've all learned this season to throw out any sort of preconceived ideas on the outcome of a game based on the stats of the opponent. Can the Packers win? Sure. Will the Packers win? Heaven only knows. At this point, it'll be fun to watch just to see how the team plays after all the changes this week.

If I had to make a prediction it would be Packers-21, Falcons-24. The Packers don't have anyone other than Rodgers that's ever called offensive plays in the NFL before, and the special teams are undoubtedly going to make a few game-losing mistakes as long as Zook is in charge.

Jonathan Spader's picture

I feel like it's only a matter of time before GB is a Zook free zone. Don't see the next HC keeping him.

The Packers can win if they don't beat themselves again and actually play to their strengths the whole game instead of just half.

dobber's picture

Zook will almost certainly be swept out with the majority of the coaching staff at the end of the season.

I think the Packers CAN win this week, but they've struggled with Atlanta in the recent past. I don't know if they have an answer for Julio Jones except to try to beat up Matt Ryan.

GBPDAN1's picture

I would like to see more fight from the team and also to see Rodgers play better. Would like to see a better scheme with MM gone, too. Improvements will give us momentum going into the off season.

However, I believe the Packers are to depleted regarding injuries and also lack talent at certain positions and feel that we will lose a close game this week, which isn't the worst thing right now because we are basically out of the playoff picture, wouldn't win the SB if we happened to beat the 2.5% odds and made the playoffs and we need high draft picks so losing a few more games will help us in April

Jonathan Spader's picture

If the Packers beat Atlanta I'll enjoy the win as a Packer fan. Of the Packers lose I won't be upset if the season ended today the Packers would pick at #10 and #31 or #32 in the draft. Gruden screwed up assuming the Bears would net him a higher draft pick than the Packers but if the Packers had Mack maybe he was right who knows?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

The NO pick could be as high as 26th. I wouldn't expect NO to back into the playoffs, but at 10-2 now, I could envision them dropping 2 more games (@TB, @Carolina, Steelers, Carolina). Only the Bears (going 4-0) have any chance to get a bye instead of LAR and NO.

Bye teams can draft no higher than 25th. WC losers draft 21-24. At current projections, we'd need Balt > a 13-3 or 12-4 Houston team, Pitt > a 13-3 or 12-4 LAC team, MN > a 12-4 Chicago team*. The loser of the other game, currently Dal vs. Seattle, gets the 25th pick because I refuse to consider the chance that NO goes 1-3 or 0-4.

* Too early (too lazy) to calculate the possible strength of schedules to determine whether a 12-4 NO team or a 12-4 Chicago team would get the 26th pick.

Pierre's picture

This Falcons game would only be interesting if the Packers gave Boyle an opportunity to see how he plays the QB position with an eye towards their future. Rodgers should go to IR and start healing up completely and determine the reasons why he can’t throw the ball accurately deep anymore or complete over 62% of his passes. He’s been playing more on a par with how Blake Bortles is playing QB than Brees, Rivers, Mahomes or Brady.
Packers need to find out what they have in their backup QBs so they can draft wisely. Something is seriously wrong with Rodgers when one of the lowest rated QBs, Rosen, beats him at Lambeau in December as Arizona just did. It’s hard to excuse that game away if you have any objectivity as you watch that game.
The writing is on the wall with Rodgers poor performances this year and now we shall see how many more years the Packers will waste before they determine Favre #2 needs to be replaced?

Guam's picture

While Rodgers has been underwhelming compared to his usual self this year, I am surprised by the venom in this and other similar comments. The guy has one poor, injury riddled year and all the prior years of all-pro play go out the window. He may be injured, he may be in decline, or he may just be having an off year; but I think he has earned the right to a little leeway. Let's see what happens next year before we jump to a conclusion.

BTW, Assuming the Packers could put Rodgers on IR, it would be Kizer logging the playing time, not Boyle.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

Well said.

I think most of the veteran Packer fans who are disappointed in Rodgers, are as much so about his attitude, his demeanor, as they are his actual performances.

True he's made some very bad throws, missing on passes, and missing guys who were wide open, not looking their way. Andy & Benny Fennell over at The Athletic have done some fine film breakdowns on these. But we've all seen more throws that were off by 2, 3, 4 feet that made a big difference.

I'm hoping this has nothing to do with the screws or plates holding his throwing collar bone together.

Guam's picture

Completely agree about the demeanor issue. Between the passive-aggressive shots at McCarthy, the facial expressions and the body language, Rodgers has edged into diva territory and that is disappointing.

However he will be our starting QB for at least the next two seasons given his contract and we need to find a coach that can connect with Rodgers and get him and the offense back on track.

Given the insightful observations of people who know a lot more about QB mechanics than I do, it seems most of Rodgers errant throws are off his back foot. Maybe a good offseason's work on mechanics would get Rodgers back to form.

Nick Perry's picture

Jesus Christ Pierre....You need to LOOK at WHO Rodgers has been throwing the ball to before bashing the hell out of him like THAT and wishing for a peek at the 3rd string UDFA QB on the roster.

While MVS was a nice surprise early and St. Brown has made some nice catches, they're still 5th and 6th round picks in a offense that has NEVER been kind to rookie WR's. James Jones and Greg Jennings are the ONLY WR to have produced as rookies and that was when Favre was QB.

Rodgers doesn't get to go without blame but common man. He's had Adams and...… Now there's Aaron Jones but we've all watched how that went. My biggest hope is MVS and St. Brown CONTINUE to improve and stay healthy. Jones is actually used like he should be, and maybe Jake Kumerow emerges as a legit target for next season.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

I certainly wouldn't put "Pierre" & Jesus in the same sentence like that.

I don't mind any Packer fans who are thinking "big picture" & "long term", with an eye on the draft.

It's time to take a look at some youngsters on both sides if the ball. Not at QB, unless the game is out of hand.
But more Tonyan obviously, and more of the 3 rookie WRs & Davante.
Davante is a beast & he wants to pad his fantastic #s. I respect that.
But that's not gonna help this team long term.

Feed the kids & let's see who can produce.

PeteK's picture

I would like to get Kizer some work with this offense.

dobber's picture

The offense needs to get right, or as right as it can get. That only happens with #12 taking the majority of the snaps. ARod's contract is a marriage that leaves Kizer and Boyle as bridesmaids. The Packers are committed to Adams and the young WR. They'll certainly find another WR or two for camp next year either through FA or the draft, but those key players already in town need to be on the field down the stretch.

" Something is seriously wrong with Rodgers when one of the lowest rated QBs, Rosen, beats him at Lambeau in December as Arizona just did."

Did I miss a steel cage match between Rosen and Rodgers? Rosen beat the Packers defense, and it didn't appear he whacked them with a folding chair. The Arizona defense beat the Packers offense.

"The writing is on the wall with Rodgers poor performances this year "

The writing is also on the wall with ARod's contract. He's here to stay for the next 3 years, minimum. IF it turns out that he's losing it, then it becomes more important that the Packers surround him with pieces to prop him up. I'm not writing off ARod, yet, but I'm not ignoring his play, either. Plenty of players have lousy years and bounce back, but we need to temper our 'what have you done for me lately' tendencies.

Guam's picture

Eloquent and to the point Dobber!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Myself, I never had no luck with bridesmaids, but I know them as has.

Oh, um, football. I suppose GB could trade AR after the 2019 season. The cap savings would be negative $1.9M or with a post-june designation, a plus $21.1M cap savings with a whopping $23M dead money hit in 2021. AR playing two more seasons in GB is less daunting: it would be a cap savings of $10.5M.

It is just hard to envision the right circumstances ever obtaining. The acquiring team would have to be really good such that all they need is a good QB (even if he's 37 or so) and don't need a couple of first-round picks at a minimum. GB would have to be eyeing either a great QB prospect class and somehow we possess (or the trade partner has) a top 12 or better pick that GB could use. Or, GB could get a QB back from the acquiring team who looks like a Favre 2.0 type of player. The chance seems tiny.

Pierre's picture

Well at least you’re not ignoring Rodgers poor play. In losing at Lambeau in December as a 14 point favorite, to the worst offense in the NFL, it does say a lot about how far Rodgers has slipped. He’s not the QB he used to be.
Just saying the Packers need to make plans for another QB sooner rather than later. The Packers are a lot more as an organization than any one player and if you cannot objectively evaluate the play of your diva QB who gets about 2mil a game you’re just drinking way too much cool aid. Rodgers being an elite QB at this stage is all a figment of one’s imagination and memory and not the reality of how he’s playing on the field. Living a delusion and on the past won’t get this team any where near a SB in the future. So, the writing is on the wall if you really can see how poorly Rodgers has been playing this season.

Pierre's picture

Packers were a 14 point favorite versus Arizona at Lambeau in December, in a must win game against a rookie QB. Rodgers could not lead the offense to a win even with a lead at halftime against a 2-9 football team.
Nothing else needs to be said!

Lare's picture

"The writing is on the wall with Rodgers poor performances this year and now we shall see how many more years the Packers will waste before they determine Favre #2 needs to be replaced?"

Yes, Rodgers has had an off year (for him) but this comment is somewhat laughable. Rodgers is currently 5th in the NFL in total yards, 6th in yards per game, 11th in TDs and 11th in passer rating. That is with a stale offensive scheme, a porous offensive line and rookie wide receivers.

There are a lot of positions the Packers need to improve to be successful, quarterback isn't one of them.

PAPackerbacker's picture

It will be fun to see if the coaching change lights a fire under the players for the rest of the season. Will their be fresh ideas of game management or will it be the same old, same old, game plan? Why not give the rookies a shot at showcasing their skills to see how they can contribute for the remainder of the season? It will be an interesting next 4 games to watch.

PatrickGB's picture

I suspect that Atlanta will win this game. Our lines, both offense and defense is in tatters. Our secondary is made up of newbies and backups. Our outside linebackers are subpar. Our wide receivers are, with one exception new or injured players. We have 11 players on IR and we have a failed HC as our interim head coach.
But I expect a good game and effort by they team. They will play for pride and have my support regardless of the outcome.

jlc1's picture

Atlanta showed it has some team strength with the 3 wins in a row after a bad start. GB has not done anything like that this year and it does not seem likely it can. Too many injuries for this team to have an identity it can rally around. Glad I live in area where this is not the Fox game being broadcast and don't have to watch this. Too sad, too frustrating.

LeotisHarris's picture

I'm not optimistic for tomorrow, and it seems season ticket holders are feeling the same way.

Take a trip to StubHub, kids. I'm seeing lower level seats available for $39 - $50 now. By noon tomorrow you may be able to take the whole family for under $100.

Too sad, too frustrating, indeed.

Skip greenBayless's picture

Wow, I knew they would be low but not THAT low. What is more telling is Aaron Rodgers, the great one, is starting the game. What the hell does that say? To me it says the Packers are in big big trouble very soon if they do not find themselves a great young quarterback. Their old future hall of fame qb Aaron Rodgers cannot even draw them in anymore. Did Michael Jordan ever suffer at the ticket gate? The fans are basically saying seeing Aaron Rodgers play at the present time isn't worth their time or money. I am sure the Packers are paying attention. Expect drastic destruction and reconstruction this off season the likes we haven't seen since Infante was canned. The free market has spoken. Not good!!

PatrickGB's picture

If I lived closer, I would buy a ticket, just in support of my team. As far as I am concerned I remain a fan for life. Win or lose, I remain a diehard fan.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

I remain a fan forever too, always.
I was a fan back when David Whitehurst was my QB.

However, A) I'm glad tickets are cheap, B) Most season ticket holders are spoiled C) It would be better for the Packers if we lost this game. Draft position matters, as we know from hearing the Thompson apologists always say "yeah but he was always picking in the 20's, never a top-10 or 5 pick"......

Yet he took WR Trevor Davis in the 160s & 2 picks later KC took WR Tyreek Hill. And he took CB Davon House in rd 4 or 5 & a few picks later, Seattle took CB Richard Sherman.....

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