9

October

Packers vs. Falcons Preview: 5 Things to Watch

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (4-0) face off with Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons (2-2) in Week 5 of the NFL season on Sunday Night Football.

The basics 

When: 7:20 CDT; Sunday, Oct. 9, 2011

Where: Georgia Dome; Atlanta, GA

TV: NBC; Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth with the call, Michelle Tafoya on the sidelines

Radio: 620 AM WTMJ (Milwaukee), Packers Radio Network, Westwood One Radio, NFL Sunday Drive (Sirius Radio)

Series: Packers lead, 14-13 (Falcons won the last regular season game, 20-17, in Atlanta on Nov. 28, 2010)

Five things to watch

1. The beat goes on

For being defending Super Bowl champions and one of just two 4-0 teams left in the NFL, Packers fans sure find ways to look upon the team pessimistically. Yes, the defense has been shaky and needs to improve. But sit back and enjoy what you’re seeing on the offensive side of the ball, because it’s been one of the best starts to a season in Packers’ history. Where to start? The Packers are No. 1 in the NFL in scoring with 149 points (37.0/game), which is also the most points the team has ever scored through four games. They are on pace for a record 592 points. Sunday’s 49 points, coupled with the 42 points in Week 1, marked the first time in franchise history that the Packers have ever scored 40 or more points twice in the first four weeks. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is first in the NFL in passer rating (124.6) and completion percentage (73.0), and each would be NFL records if he continued that pace. He’s second in passing touchdowns (12) and yards per attempt (9.40). If Rodgers stayed on this pace through 16 games, he would throw for 5,300 yards and 48 touchdowns, which would shatter the franchise records of 4,458 (Lynn Dickey, 1983) and 39 (Brett Favre, 1996). That’s a lot of numbers to throw at you, but there needs to be an appreciation level for what the offense is doing in 2011. And just think; they face a defense on Sunday night that made just two additions (Ray Edwards, Kelvin Hayden) and have really struggled at times this season. The Packers offense has earned the spotlight of the entire league, and they’ll get another chance in primetime to show what kind of force they can be in 2011. (Stats courtesy of Packers.com)

7

October

2011 NFL Season Week 5 Preview: Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons–Flipping The Bird

Didn’t we just beat these guys?

Nine months after beating the top NFC seed handily in the divisional round of the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers return to the Georgia Dome this Sunday night to face the Atlanta Falcons.  The Packers enter the game on a ten game winning streak dating back to last season and are currently tied with the Detroit Lions for the NFC North lead at 4-0.  The Falcons come in struggling and are one of the NFC’s most enigmatic teams at 2-2.

Last Week in Review

The Packers continued to roll, defeating the hapless Denver Broncos 49-23 at Lambeau Field.  The Falcons meanwhile barely held on after blowing an early lead against the Seattle Seahawks 30-28. The Falcons are currently third in the NFC South behind New Orleans and Tampa Bay.

Key Falcons players

QB Matt Ryan

Entering 2011, if there was one quarterback who was the next to see a rise to superstardom like Aaron Rodgers had last year, it was Matt Ryan.  Despite the blowout loss at home in the playoffs, the foundation had been laid for the Falcons to be dominant for years to come.

So far, that dominance has gotten off to a sluggish start.  Ryan is under constant pressure and has been making uncharacteristic mistakes.  While he is completing 62.2% of his passes, he has 6 TDs against 4 INTs.

That’s not to say Ryan doesn’t have what it takes.  He has very strong leadership abilities and has a very even keeled personality.  Ryan is also accurate and very smart with the ball.  If his offensive line can keep him upright, Ryan still can very easily become an elite quarterback.

WR Roddy White

He is the Greg Jennings to Ryan’s Rodgers.  Every time he has the ball, he is a threat to take the ball to the house.

Even though the Falcons borderline mortgaged the franchise to move up and draft Julio Jones, White is still the star of this receiving corps and will be a player the Packers have to keep an eye on.

LB John Abraham

Even though he marched out of the Georgia Dome victorious in January, Rodgers can’t be too happy Abraham stole his championship belt when the linebacker sacked him early in the game.

14

January

Packers – Falcons Playoffs Preview: Second Time the Charm?

Bring on the Falcons! The Green Bay Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in an NFC Wild Card matchup and now move on to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons this Saturday night in the divisional round.
One down, three to go, Packers fans.

In what is becoming a common theme in the Packers’ postseason opponents, they faced the Falcons earlier in the season. On November 28th, the Packers fell to the Falcons 20-17 on a last second field goal. It was arguably the poorest tackling day by an otherwise stout Green Bay defense as Falcons running back Michael Turner gained 110 yards on the ground and scored one touchdown. Quarterback Matt Ryan was also brilliant throwing only four incompletions out of 28 attempts.

You’ve heard it ever since the playoffs began: “Anything in can happen in the playoffs. Everyone’s record is 0-0 and it’s every team for itself.” Perhaps now more was this evident in the 7-9 NFC West champion Seahawks’ upset of the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints in Seattle last weekend.

The Packers stand one win away from their second trip to the NFC Championship Game in four years. This one will be on the road, playing either in Seattle or Chicago depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field.

Breaking down the Falcons

It’s only been seven weeks since these two teams squared off so the Falcons’ tendencies should still be rather fresh in the mind of the Packers.

On offense, the Falcons boast one the premier young quarterbacks in Ryan. With a nickname like “Matty Ice” you know Ryan remains as cool as a cucumber and he has only lost two home games in his three seasons as the Falcons’ starting quarterback. Ryan remains one the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL.

Ryan’s favorite target is wide receiver Roddy White. Once one of the NFL’s problem children, White has matured into an elite receiver that will give the Packers fits all day. He is able to get the ball downfield but still isn’t afraid to go over the top to make the catch. He is truly a complete receiver.

Don’t forget tight end Tony Gonzalez either. While his “catch” in the first matchup will forever live in Packers infamy, he’s still one of the best tight ends in the game. He’s especially dangerous in the red zone so Dom Capers must keep tabs on where number 88 is at all times inside the 20.

27

November

Stuffing the Dirty Birds: Green Bay Packers – Atlanta Falcons Preview – NFL Week 12

After the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-3 in a game that cost Brad Childress his job, Packer fans could have stayed on cloud nine all the way into next training camp. But here come the Dirty Birds (AKA the Atlanta Falcons)…

So let’s snap back to reality here. The Packers have six games left and have a realistic shot at the Super Bowl and that means a lot more than one win over the Vikings, right?

Right?

Anywho, the Packers head to Atlanta this week to face the Falcons who currently own the best record in the NFC at 8-2 and are led by a quarterback that is darn near a clone of Aaron Rodgers.

How’s that for a sobriety check?

Breaking down the Falcons

The aforementioned Rodgers clone is Falcons quarterback Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan.  The third year quarterback out of Boston College continues the spectacular play that began in his rookie year of 2008.

Ryan is smart with the ball and doesn’t cost his team games. He is well respected in the locker room after taking over for a quarterback (the since redeemed Michael Vick) who had a messy divorce from the organization.

Sound familiar?

Besides Ryan, the Falcons offense is led by running back Michael Turner and wide receiver Roddy White. Turner is one of the most bruising backs in the league whose big frame and ability to break tackles will provide a tough challenge for the Packers’ stout run defense.

As for White, he can make any catch anywhere on the field.  He’s good down the sideline or in the middle of the field. His strong hands and elusiveness have made him Ryan’ number one target.

Defensively, the Falcons are led by defensive end John Abraham. Playing the position like a linebacker, Abraham hits as hard as anyone and is able to cover the entire field.

The Falcons secondary is a weak link with Dunta Robinson being their strongest player. They don’t match up well with the Packers receivers so the Falcons could have their hands full all day.

When the Packers have the ball….

I think Mike McCarthy might be on to something.

Last week, the Packers featured a two-pronged rushing attack consisting of Brandon Jackson and former Falcon Dimitri Nance.  Nance performed well as the third down back and his knowledge of his former team could come in handy.