With both teams coming off wins in week one, the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons collide at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the first time since the NFC Championship, which saw Atlanta route Green Bay by a score of 44-21 (8.30pm ET Sunday).
But this is a brand new season and the Packers will be looking to avenge that loss and reclaim what they consider to be their rightful spot at the top of the NFC. Pre-season betting odds had the Packers as favorites (+400) to win their conference and the defending NFC champions at fourth best (+600) to repeat. The Packers also opened as second favorites to win the Super Bowl (+750), right behind the team that beat the Falcons last year, the New England Patriots (+450).
Week One Recap
Just shy of five years ago, the Packers played a game at CenturyLink Field that resulted in controversy due to the wrong call being made on a Hail Mary pass. The play is now commonly referred to as the “Fail Mary.” The Packers and Seattle Seahawks, who benefited from the blown call, have been rivals ever since. Five of the 21 meetings between the two teams have occurred since this game in 2012, with the Packers winning each of the last three, including the 2017 season opener.
At the friendly confines of Lambeau Field, Aaron Rodgers led his team to complete dominance, recording more passing yards (311) than the Seahawks had total yards (225). Rodgers also added two touchdowns to none for Seattle, which lost the game by a 17-9 score. Green Bay did struggle with the run, only recording 84 yards on the ground, but their defense was solid allowing the Packers to control time of possession by nearly 20 minutes.
Things did not go nearly as smoothly for the Falcons, who just nearly avoided the upset by the Chicago Bears. The headline of an Atlanta blog read, “Falcons hold off Bears,” and that’s exactly what happened. In fact, the game came down to the final play. Mike Glennon took the Bears all the way down the field but a pair of crucial dropped passes right at the goal line proved costly. The game ended when Atlanta got its biggest play of the day, a sack by Brooks Reed on fourth and goal for the Bears.
The game was close from the beginning but to the Falcons credit, they never trailed. Offensively, Atlanta’s passing game didn’t look bad, with Matt Ryan going a crisp 21-of-30 on the day, for 321 yards and touchdown. Ryan made some pretty big plays, including a huge 80+ TD to tight end Austin Hooper. The ground game however struggled to get going as Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for just 53 yards on 20 carries.
Atlanta’s Keys to Victory
- Establish the run game early and stick with it: After last week, it would be easier for Atlanta to shy away from running the ball given the low rate of production but this would be a mistake. When the Falcons were at their best last year it was because of a balanced running and passing game, one which relied on the other to open up the field. Neglecting the run is dangerous especially against a Packers team which has developed a strong secondary. WR Julio Jones will have the matchup advantage, especially with Hooper likely to get serious attention given his week one performance, but without the run, it could be a long day for Ryan in the box.
- Neutralize Aaron Rodgers: If this was three, even two years ago, expecting anybody to pressure Rodgers to a point where he is made ineffective would be wishful thinking at best. But as the NFC championship game showed and at points in last week’s victory, Rodgers is no longer invincible and infallible. Staked to a 0-31 deficit, Rodgers didn’t score his first touchdown in the NFC Championship until midway through the third quarter. If the Packers hope to win, this can’t be the case and Rodgers can’t be held scoreless for this long. Of course, this is exactly what Atlanta will look to do given how well the results worked out in their favor the last time. It’s easier said than done however and you can bet that Rodgers will be seeking revenge on Sunday night.
Green Bay’s Keys to Victory
- Focus on Julio Jones: There’s really not much to be said about this one because regardless of whether Atlanta can get their run game going or not, Jones is going to be a factor in this game. In the NFC Championship, Jones found himself open early and often, burning the Green Bay secondary for 180 yards and two touchdowns. It goes without saying that Green Bay can’t let this be the same outcome if they hope to win in week two. The problem is, just like last year, the Packers really don’t have anybody good enough to make sure Jones doesn’t get his. And even if they did, double teaming Jones means opening up the field for Atlanta’s other playmakers, including Mohammed Sanu, who had a touchdown in the NFC Championship game as well. Jones is going to cause serious problems for Green Bay and if they can’t stop him, it’s going to be very difficult for them to pick up the W.
- Attack on the Front Line: The Packers secondary has certainly improved as both Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett have proven themselves to be solid defensive playmakers, but as a whole, this unit is not one that is equipped to stop the deep passing game the Falcons like to employ. That’s why it will be paramount for the Packers to make their defensive presence known up front. Pressuring Ryan and the Falcons’ offensive line will be critical. Atlanta has a pretty good group in this regard but there were some holes that the Bears exposed last week that Green Bay should be prepared to take advantage of. Wes Schweitzer looks to be a liability at guard and Andy Levitre is also sometimes problematic. This is where Mike Daniels comes in. Daniels tore through Seattle’s offensive line last week and completely disrupted Russell Wilson at every turn. If he can do the same thing to Ryan, it could be a long day for the Falcons.
Our Preview’s Green Bay Packers vs Atlanta Falcons Betting Picks & Predictions
- As the home team, Atlanta enters this week as slim, three-point favorites. My money is with the Packers to win, avenging their loss from last year, so take the Packers +3pts @ -110 with BetOnline. It is generally -110 or a worse spread advantage with the other big US sports betting sites.
- As for the over/under, the last time these two teams met over 60 points were scored and one team was responsible for 40-plus of them. Take the lofty over on 55.5 total points to be scored @ -110 odds with any of Bovada, Intertops, 5Dimes, MyBookie or Bookmaker