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December

Falcons vs. Packers: Keys to the Game

Steven Jackson Eddie Lacy

Which of these running backs would you rather have? It was a valid question for the Packers earlier this year

After a 10-day layoff, the Green Bay Packers return to action this Sunday at Lambeau Field against the Atlanta Falcons.  This game was originally scheduled to be a Sunday night matchup, but after the early decline of the Falcons and the recent plummet of the Packers, the NFL wisely flexed this game into a Sunday afternoon time slot.

Atlanta is 3-9 and has already been eliminated from postseason contention.  Their sole purpose now is to ruin everyone else’s party.  It’s hardly a party in Green Bay, however.  The Packers, once 5-2, have not won in five straight games and sit at 5-6-1.  But the Packers always seem to be in the thick of divisional races down to the wire and despite their horrid play over the past month, are still just a game and a half out of first place.

The big question this week is whether or not Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be cleared to return.  As of Wednesday, Rodgers was practicing with the team (in pads), but still had not been cleared to return to game action.  Matt Flynn was taking reps with the starters in practice and will start if Rodgers can’t go.

Earlier this week, I dubbed this game the “Horrible Bowl” and I stand behind that moniker.  Whichever team emerges the loser this week can officially call themselves “horrible”.  It would give the Falcons double-digit losses for the first time since 2007 when they finished 4-12.  It would drop the Packers to 5-7-1 and with eight wins the highest total they can achieve this season.  It would be the team’s worst finish since 2008 when they went 6-10.

This could be the shortest “Keys” post to date by simply stating “Score more points than the Falcons” but let’s attempt to dive a little deeper into this contest and what we will likely see.

Green Bay’s Offensive Line Health

Missing practice this week for the Packers were center Evan Dietrich-Smith and left tackle David Bakhtiari.

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December

Around the NFC North: Week 14

Around the NFC North

With only four games left, the Lions are in sole possession of first place with the Bears and Packers still in contention

Last week brought about two divisional games, one of which went into overtime and nearly ended in yet another tie.

The Green Bay Packers faced the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day and in the end, the only thing Packers fans were thankful for was that the game was over.  The Lions thumped the Packers to the tune of a 40-10 beat down that epitomized just how low the Packers have sunk since losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The Minnesota Vikings came back and scored an overtime win against the Chicago Bears, who had what seemed like a solid lead heading into the fourth quarter.  Minnesota tied the game on a Blair Walsh field goal to force overtime.  In the overtime, the Bears drove down and set up their usually-reliable place kicker, Robbie Gould, for a 47-yard attempt for the win.  Gould’s kick sailed right and on the ensuing possession, the Vikings rode Adrian Peterson down field and set up the eventual game winner by Walsh.

The Lions now have sole possession of first place in the North with a record of 7-5 and a one-game lead over the Bears.  The Packers fell to 5-6-1 and are two games back.  With the Carolina Panthers (9-3) and San Francisco 49ers (8-4) rolling, the only way a NFC North team is getting into the playoffs is likely by winning the division.

This week’s slate features four separate games.  The Packers will host the Atlanta Falcons in a game that was originally slated for Sunday night.  It was flexed out a few weeks back due to the decline in both teams’ level of play.  The Panthers and New Orleans Saints will now play in the Sunday night slot.

The Detroit Lions will head to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, who have suddenly remembered how to win at home.  The Minnesota Vikings will take to the road to face the Baltimore Ravens and the week culminates with the Bears hosting the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

With that, let’s take a quick look at each matchup and the implications for this week.