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Preview: Green Bay Packers at Falcons

Every win or loss means something in the NFL, and the Green Bay Packers upcoming game against the Falcons is no exception, but it's not a must win game for either of them. However pride and confidence mean a lot to players, and every team will give the defending champs special attention this season. The Falcons were the NFC's No. 1 seed last season and now they have a chance for a little revenge against the team that knocked them out of the playoffs. They had to have this game circled on their calendar every since the 2011 schedule was announced. 

On offense, the Falcons are above average and Matt Ryan is having a good season (84.8 QB rating), while Michael Turner (3 rushing TDs, 4.5 ypc) is doing his usual damage on the ground. Rookie WR Julio Jones is playing fine, but he's still looking for his first NFL touchdown and he isn't playing like a receiver worth trading a few draft picks for. Also, Roddy White has taken a step back from his outstanding 2010 season. It hasn't helped that the offensive line has struggled after the free agent departure of G Harvey Dahl, and the ongoing knee problems for C Todd McClure. It's been a disappointing season for their offense, but they've still been above average this season and they'll move the ball against the Packers.

On defense, I've been surprised how similar the Packers and Falcons are. Both pass defenses are near average against as measured by opponents QB rating against, and their run defenses are above average while holding opponents to 3.6-3.7 ypc. The big difference is that the Falcons have only recorded 5 sacks, which they couldn't have expected after signing free agent DE Ray Edwards. While the Packers pass defense will struggle to contain TE Tony Gonzalez and keep the Falcons off the scoreboard, the Falcons are facing a much tougher task of slowing down the Packers dominant pass offense, which is currently ranked as the best in the NFL by Football Outsiders.

In their first four games, I see two teams that are having problems keeping their opponents off the scoreboard. The Falcons have only held one team under 28 points, and the Packers have only held one opponent under 20 points (thanks to a special teams penalty which called back a touchdown). Those defenses could surprise me, but I expect another high scoring game and the Packers are going to have to win a shootout.

Packers 31, Falcons 24.