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Preview: Green Bay Packers at Falcons

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I'm guessing most fans of the Green Bay Packers aren't that familiar with the Atlanta Falcons, and I've certainly had to learn more about them myself. I know their 8-2 record is the best in the NFC and WR Roddy White has been a fantasy monster who isn't called for offensive pass interference. Digging deeper in their stats you'll notice that they're second in the NFL with an average time of possession 33:34 per game, and fourth best with a +10 turnover margin. Also, QB Matt Ryan has only been sacked 15 times and they have the fewest penalties in the NFL. Their weakness is on defense, which has allowed their last three home opponents to score between 21 (Buccaneers, Ravens) and 32 (Bengals) points.

While the Packers defense is playing better than the Falcons (allowing only 10 points total over their last 3 games), the production by their offenses has been similar. According to Football Outsiders, the Packers are ranked at No. 6 while the Falcons are ranked No. 7. The Packers have a positive average time of possession (31:03 per game), and the fifth best turnover margin at +8. QB Aaron Rodgers has only been sacked 20 times. They have the fifth fewest penalties this season, but even that low number is still inflated by the 18 penalty disaster in Chicago. The improvement is real too, as Mike McCarthy has detailed the changes the team made to reduce penalties. 

More after the jump, and you can read more about the Falcons at The Falcoholic. Here's his look at Four Critical Matchups.

Both teams offensive and defensive rankings from Football Outsiders:

Teams Run Offense Pass Offense Run Defense Pass Defense
Packers 11 5 22 1
Falcons 13 8 4 24

Packers Offense vs. Falcons Defense

The Packers offense has been on a roll, stomping on the Cowboys and Vikings in their last two games. The Falcons defense has allowed over 22 points per game during their recent 4 game winning streak, and doesn't seem like the primary reason for said winning streak.

Their run defense is playing pretty well, but they allowed well over 4 ypc to both RB Ray Rice and RB Steven Jackson in their last two games. They contained them by forcing their opponents to come from behind and abandon the run.

The Falcons pass defense is led by high priced free agent CB Dunta Robinson, and a breakthrough season from CB Brent Grimes. They've also been battling key injuries as pass rushing specialist DE John Abraham has missed practice, and arguably their best defense player, LB Curtis Lofton, has been limited. Mike McCarthy respects Abraham, but said LT Chad Clifton has been playing great this season. They might not be able to run the ball, but they'll certainly do some damage in the passing game if Rodgers has time to throw.

Falcons Offense vs. Packers Defense

The Falcons offense has been playing great in recent weeks, averaging over 31 points per game over their last 4 games. The Packers defense has only allowed 10 points total in the last 3 games. While CB Sam Shields struggled last week, Dom Capers is very good at making sure CB Charles Woodson is matched up against their top receiving threat, when he isn't matched up on CB Tramon Williams's side of the field. By far their best receiving threat is WR Roddy White, who has missed practice this week, but he remains dangerous.

RB Michael Turner is having another excellent season, and he'll have a 100 yard game if he gets between 20 to 25 carries. The key to stopping Turner will be to force them to throw the football while playing from behind. The Falcons are converting nearly 50% of their 3rd down attempts (2nd best in the NFL), while the Packers are allowing a middling 40% against them. They have to stop them from converting which will limit Turner's touches.

Hidden Football

I've already discussed penalties above (neither team commits many), and while the Falcons don't have an elite special teams unit, according to Football Outsiders, they're better than the Packers lousy unit, which won't get any help on kick coverage from injured safeties Atari Bigby and Anthony Smith. The Falcons are better, but they don't have a major advantage.


Will the Falcons be the first team in over a month to score more then 7 points against the Packers? Probably, but they won't go wild against a defense that hasn't allowed more than 26 points in any game this season. While the Packers offense hasn't been dynamic on the road, they are much better when playing under a roof. They scored 31 points last week, and their previous indoor game was back in January when they scored 45 against the Cardinals. Packers 31, Falcons 21.