Packers Periscope: Week 2 vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Green Bay Packers are back in Atlanta to face the Falcons but they aren't returning to the scene of the crime.  The scene: Georgia Dome.  The crime: the drubbing the Falcons handed them in last season's NFC championship game in January.

The Georgia Dome is no longer Atlanta's home field after the recent opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.  Sunday night's game is the Falcons' first in their new digs.  Green Bay will be helping another team christen their new home for the second-straight season (Minnesota Vikings last season).

The Packers weren't able to spoil Minnesota's night and doing it in Atlanta won't be any easier.  Here's a look at the history between Green Bay and Atlanta ahead of this marquis match up in week two.

The Past

The Packers lead the all-time series 17-15, which includes four playoff games and dates back to 1966.  Green Bay won the first five games in the series and had won four straight before last season.

The Falcons sprinkled in a few good seasons among several not-so-great ones in their first 20 years.  In 1989, they drafted "Neon" Deion Sanders in the first round and became one of the more exciting teams in the league.  Two seasons later, they added quarterback Brett Favre in round two.

A year and a half later, Favre was a Green Bay Packer via trade, arguably the single greatest trade in Packers history.  A few of his run-ins against his former team weren't without their significance.

In the Packers' last game at Milwaukee County Stadium in late 1994, Favre knocked the Falcons out of playoff contention when he ran for the game-winning score on the game's last play from scrimmage.  It kept the Packers from being eliminated from the postseason and gave a fond farewell to Milwaukee. 

In that moment, Favre wasn't supposed to run at all.  Not known for his speed, Favre was told by Head Coach Mike Holmgren not to scramble under any circumstance.  Favre built an entire career on ad-libbing and just reacting to the situation in front of him, that being an iconic example.

A season later, Favre led the Packers to a home victory in the wild card round of the playoffs before going on to help stun the defending champion San Francisco 49ers a week later.  Seven years later, the Falcons got some sweet revenge, handing the Packers their first-ever playoff loss at Lambeau Field.  

The two teams saw each other sparingly over the next few seasons.  With the Packers charging towards a division title, the two teams met in Atlanta in late 2010.  The Falcons held the NFC's best record and were able to hang on for a tight win, setting the stage for a playoff rematch.

The Packers returned to Atlanta in the divisional round of that year's playoffs and ran the Falcons out of the Georgia Dome.  Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played nearly flawlessly and the defense also got in on the fun en route to a huge win and an eventual Super Bowl championship.

The Packers won the next three in the series up until last season when the Falcons squeaked one out against the Packers in the regular season and then emphatically ended Green Bay's quest to "run the table" in the NFC championship game, the Falcons' last in the Georgia Dome.

The Present 

The Falcons came into 2017 still stinging from the loss in Super Bowl LI in which they held a 28-3 lead.  Instead of opening their new stadium on Thursday night, they hit the road and barely escaped the Chicago Bears in week one. 

Atlanta's offense is their clear strength but they recognized the need to boost their defense, adding former Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Dontari Poe in free agency and defensive end Takkarist McKinley in the first round of the 2017 draft.  

Atlanta is still considered one of the top teams in the NFC and one of the favorites to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII.  They're facing questions and doubts after last week's scare and a big win against the Packers would quickly silence many of those.

Green Bay needs another statement win to solidify themselves as a legitimate top team in the NFL.  A prime-time road win in this scenario would be exactly that.  This Packers team wants to host the postseason and they know they can't afford to lose a tie-breaker.  A subpar game plan would be very surprising, given how well Mike McCarthy has prepped for some past big games.

Green Bay faced a subpar offensive line against the Seattle Seahawks last week and will have their work more cut out for them this week in Atlanta.  The Falcons allowed two sacks against the Bears and have found success in limiting Green Bay's rush in the recent past. 

Green Bay could be without linebacker Ahmad Brooks who is in the concussion protocol.  Fortunately the Packers found a pass rush from a new source: Mike Daniels.  Daniels had one of this best games, logging 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.  Linebacker Nick Perry joined the party with 1.5 sacks of his own.

Falcons receiver Julio Jones is one of the best, if not the best in the league.  He torched the Packers in the NFC championship game and while it won't be LaDarius Gunter across from him this time, he's still going to make plays.  Jones didn't have a touchdown last week and will be looking to end his brief drought and send the home crowd into a frenzy.  He's a clear key for the Packers defense this week.

The Packers secondary is not the same M*A*S*H unit the Falcons saw at the end of last season and the battle with Atlanta's receivers likely won't lack entertainment.

The Future

Atlanta running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman mustered just 53 yards on 20 carries against Chicago.  If the Packers are able to hold Atlanta to a similar total this week, they'll be able to withstand any damage done by Ryan & Co.  Green Bay allowed 90 rushing yards against Seattle but Matt Ryan won't be mistaken for Russell Wilson (who had a chunk of that yardage) anytime soon.

Bears quarterback Mike Glennon was able to find eight different receivers last week.  As much as the Packers tend to spread the wealth, Rodgers should have open options to throw to. Receiver Geronimo Allison rejoins the Packers after serving his one-game suspension.

Aaron Rodgers wasn't able to get into an early rhythm last week and the offense failed to produce a singe point in the first half.  Green Bay's offensive line faces another tough challenge in Atlanta's defensive front, but they're not quite on par with Seattle.  Even if Kyle Murphy has to step in for Bryan Bulaga at right tackle again, the line should be able to hold up.  

Green Bay's offense looked more like its old self by the end of last week's game and they need to come out firing  A slow start means likely trouble in what many are predicting is a shootout.  Noise is going to be a big factor this week and the Packers have to avoid early turnovers that plagued them back in January.  The team whose offense returns to mid-season form quickest likely wins this game.

Vegas has the odds favoring Atlanta by 2.5 and when you consider that the home team often gets a three-point advantage, it might as well be even.  That's encouraging but the Falcons are still the defending NFC champions and will be hyped to open their new stadium.  The home crowd will be as charged as can be as Atlanta continues to band together and recover from the effects of Hurricane Irma.  

It won't be surprising to see the Packers take this one but I'm leaning towards Atlanta winning their third-straight against Green Bay and notching a big win in the NFC race.

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Comments (26)

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The TKstinator's picture

September 15, 2017 at 06:35 am

"Prediction? Pain."
--Clubber Lang

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NickPerry's picture

September 15, 2017 at 06:46 am

LOL...Now that was funny!

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NickPerry's picture

September 15, 2017 at 06:42 am

As long as the O-Line protects Rodgers I really like the Packers chances in this game, especially if the defense is able to put pressure on Ryan. I'd really like to see Brooks play in this game, between Perry and Brooks the Packers would have 2 excellent OLB to set the edge against those two "Mini-Me" running backs Atlanta has. THIS is the team and Jones is the player the Packers were thinking about when they signed House. This is the most important match-up for the Packers defense IMO. Keep Jones under 100 yards and out of the end zone the Packers chances for a win improve dramatically. House needs to play like he says he does. Physical and in Jones face!

On offense I'd just like to see the Packers stay patient. IF Atlanta goes 80 yards in 4 plays McCarthy needs to be patient and go 80 yards in 14 plays. DON'T get in a track meet with these guys. A few 80 yard 14 plays drives in the first half will help the Packers wear down the Falcons defense for the second half. Hopefully McCarthy paid attention to what happened in the SB. James White was a monster in that game. All those dink and dunk passes began to wear out the Falcons defense. The Packers have the ability to do the exact same thing and I'd venture to say do it better with guys like Montgomery, Cobb, our 2 new TE's, and of course Nelson and Adams. Matter of fact Aaron Jones might be a player the Packers will want to have active this week instead of Mays. On turf with his quickness I think he could help the offense, more so than Williams even.

Pressure Ryan on defense, 14 play drives on offense, the Packers win 27 to 17. Oh, and to coach McCarthy. If you have Atlanta inside their own 15 yard line at the end of the first half with 50 seconds and 2 TO left please DON'T CALL A TO!!! Just leave it alone Mike, just leave it alone.

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dobber's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:52 am

"I'd really like to see Brooks play in this game, between Perry and Brooks the Packers would have 2 excellent OLB to set the edge against those two "Mini-Me" running backs Atlanta has."

I wouldn't be surprised to see Odom active this week, especially if Brooks sits. His tape indicates he sets a good edge, can get some push, and he has some value on ST. He'll certainly provide some good info in game prep.

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Razer's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:49 am

...As long as the O-Line protects Rodgers I really like the Packers chances in this game, especially if the defense is able to put pressure on Ryan...

Nick, you could have ended your breakdown here because this is the game. Let's hope that we can get pressure on Ryan and the secondary/linebackers can establish initial coverage. On the other side, give Rodgers time and we have a better than average chance to close down their new building.

Go Packers

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The TKstinator's picture

September 15, 2017 at 06:41 am

1. Did Atl surrender a 25 point lead with a little over 17 minutes left in the SB because they "kept their foot on the gas"? As in, kept throwing rather than running? And/or did they go into a prevent style on D, or did they "stay aggressive" with press man and blitzes?

2. Can't wait to see how the GB D deals with Julio this time. I'd wager many of us are in that camp.

3. I expect a high scoring, fast paced, close game.

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NickPerry's picture

September 15, 2017 at 06:45 am

I actually expect the same. I'm just hoping the Packers don't go too fast. I'd imagine the Packers Defense is about as pumped up for this game as they possibly could be.

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dobber's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:44 am

While I want to say this might be a "whichever team has the ball last will win" kind of game, I actually think it will be lower-scoring than people expect: I think only one of the two teams will make it into the 40s. ;)

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The TKstinator's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:10 am

If it's a W for GB I'll take it in any shape, color, or size.

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dobber's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:25 am

I don't believe in style points, either. This isn't CFB...

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The TKstinator's picture

September 15, 2017 at 10:28 am

Me neither, although I DO wear a tie to work every Friday on "casual Fridays" just to be the fly in the ointment. Bet you're not surprised, either!

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flackcatcher's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:08 am

I expect both teams offense to be pretty vanilla this week. Gives both defenses the upper hand. This is where the lack of a solid training camp and lack of real game speed hurts both teams. That said, I expect this will be close, depends on how the refs let them play. I see no real changes in the core group or first subs. No Jones for you this week. Can't block, don't play. Got to keep QB1 upright. We all know with both OT shaky, 2-3 TE sets or 2RB sets will be more active. With a little luck, packers steal a victory from the falcons in their new house. Hopefully, it will be a good game.

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Savage57's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:38 am

Which team has more to atone for? Packers for getting run out of the building in the NFCCG, or the Falcons for taking 'collapse' to new heights in the Super Bowl?

I'll parrot what's been stated by several others: The Packers must get pressure with four. Don't need to sack Ryan, just get him moving around. He doesn't have the same capabilities when moved off the spot our guy does.

FWIW, Atlanta's MB stadium is pretty cool.

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dobber's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:50 am

I'm curious if their pedestrian offense in the preseason and somewhat lackluster performance last week (without Hooper's 88 yd TD--a gift where he got completely lost by the Bears defense and shook off what should've been a sure tackle--Ryan throws for under 250 yd) is as much a result of losing Shanahan as it is an SB hangover.

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porupack's picture

September 15, 2017 at 09:00 am

considering all the injuries GB had last year, it was less of an embarrassment than losing the SB after being up 28-3 at the half. It could make for a loss of confidence, or Atlanta could be a nasty opponent this year.

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RCPackerFan's picture

September 15, 2017 at 07:50 am

In the terms of Keys to the game, this is my list:

The First key is the OL. Packers have to be able to protect Rodgers. In the first half against Seattle they were giving up a lot of pressure to Rodgers. And the offense stalled out on every drive. In the 2nd half when they didn't allow as much pressure the offense started scoring points.

The Second key is the DL. Daniels was a one man wreaking crew. Clark was wall. They need to be a wall again to stuff the running game and apply pressure to Ryan.

The Third Key is the CB's. Last year in their first matchup against Atlanta they played with Gunter, Goodson and Hyde as our starting CB's. Randall and Rollins did not play. Comparing that first game to now, none of those 3 CB's are on the roster.
This year our CB is completely different. This will be their biggest test possibly for the whole season. Julio Jones in the NFCCG went off for 180 receiving yards and 2 TD's. He didn't play in their first matchup. The previous time they played the Falcons (2015) Jones had 259 receiving yards against them. Stopping Jones may not be doable but slowing him down would definitely help.

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Razer's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:54 am

What he said. Right on!

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Otto's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:03 am

I think the key to the Packer's success is turnovers. Give our guy more shots with the ball. It's a lot to ask to go punch for punch with Atl offense.

My primary concern is going into the game with no starting tackles. Anyone have any good news on Bulaga or Bak?

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dobber's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:24 am

According to what I read last night, Bulaga has had the flu all week in addition to his balky ankle (which the flu has prevented him from testing). He'd need to make a big recovery to play this week.

Bakhtiari has been practicing on a limited basis this week. My uninformed guess is that he's likely to play.

Daniels and Brice were both added to the injury report with minor dings, but there's no indication that their game status is in jeopardy.

packers.com/team/injury-report.html

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 15, 2017 at 10:24 am

Mike Daniels tweeted that he is fine.

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Handsback's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:32 am

Green Bay by 10...book it Dano!

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dobber's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:33 am

Apparently the Lions have become the new Vikings in terms of teams where former Packers land: Khyri Thornton, TJ Lang, Jared Abbrederis, Kennard Backman (cut last year), and now Christian Ringo to their PS...

profootballrumors.com/2017/09/practice-squad-updates-91417

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Razer's picture

September 15, 2017 at 09:04 am

I wonder if the Packers were interested in resigning him to the practice squad? While I hate to see a Packer's player end up with a divisional rival, I wonder if we are moving on from projects. Upgrading our D-line with Quinton Dial was a good move. Bringing back guys who are not making the team and are not sticking with other teams may tell us all we need to know.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:35 am

As with last week. I'll take a win anyway possible. Unlike last week this is a far greater test. Play our game, move the chains and do not give Atlanta any extra opportunities, via timeouts. It is going to be a ridiculously loud stadium to begin with. Louder if we do not control time of possession. GPG.

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cheesehead1's picture

September 15, 2017 at 08:36 am

Looking for another consistent performance from our D. Must get in Ryans face and have him force some throws. Look at what Bradford did against the Saints, they gave him all day back there. Win or lose I want to see our D step up again.

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