Even with the Atlanta Falcons sitting at an unpleasant 5-7, there are important factors to look for come game time inside chilly Lambeau Field that differ from their disappointing record. The Falcons are coming off a 29-18 win against the Carson Palmer-less Arizona Cardinals, but if the season ended today, they would make the playoffs as NFC South champs.
As part of our coverage heading up to kickoff, let's take a look at the five things you should watch for:
Roddy White's playing status
White missed the Falcons' Week 13 matchup against Arizona due to an ankle injury, and didn't practice Thursday or Friday. Before being forced to sit out, White posted at least five catches and averaged roughly 82 yards per game opposite of Julio Jones. White's status isn't only something to focus on because of what he's done recently, though. In four of his last six against Green Bay, he's scored a touchdown, along with recording a touchdown in five of his last seven on Monday Night Football while also averaging 103.8 yards receiving. It's unclear whether or not he'll give it a go, but his presence on the field for Atlanta is something to monitor.
That's the magic number quarterback Aaron Rodgers needs to pass for to surpass Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for the most passing yards through the first 100 starts of an NFL career. Even though Atlanta has only allowed 15 passing touchdowns this season (tied for third-best in the league), opposing quarterbacks at home are averaging 270 yards against their secondary unit, and Rodgers has passed for over 300 yards in every contest against them (including the 2010 divisional playoff game). That only makes it more likely he breaks the feat Monday against the worst pass defense in the league.
Matt Ryan's passer rating
It's stating the obvious, but the Falcons are a lot better when Matt Ryan is successful throwing the football. Will Green Bay's secondary minus possibly Sam Shields be able to hold up against Ryan, Jones, and company? It'll be important for the Packers' pass rush to disrupt Ryan's timing and have a strong game against an Falcons offensive line that has only allowed Ryan to be sacked 24 times all season. Atlanta is 37-3 all-time when Ryan has a passer rating over 100.
Devin Hester on punts
Green Bay knows a thing or two about Devin Hester after his production in the Windy City. The Falcons are the best team in the league at returning punts due to Hester, who is contributing to Atlanta's 15.3 average per return. Luckily for the Packers, punter Tim Masthay has only had to punt one time in two of the team's last three games (vs. Philadelphia in Week 11, and New England last week), so there's a chance we may not see Hester very much on the punt returning end.
Goal line Jackson
Running back Steven Jackson rushed for over 100 yards (101 to be exact) for the first time since November 25, 2012 last week. Although Jackson isn't nearly the same back who ran for over 1,000 yards eight straight seasons, he's scored a touchdown in five consecutive Monday night games. At 240 pounds, Jackson is the second heaviest starting back Dom Capers and the defensive unit has faced this season behind LeGarrette Blount. We'll see if they can keep him out of the end zone.
Enjoy the game, and Go Pack Go!