Oh boy, Week 2 keeps the premium matchups coming as the Packers travel to the Falcons. Here’s a look at the big issues that could impact the game.
When we played the first game in the Vikings sh!tty new stadium last year, we were ambushed by a former number 1 overall pick’s career game more than the noise. Now we get to break in the Falcons sh!tty new stadium this year, which will probably be just as loud as their sh!tty old stadium was last year, complete with fake crowd noise. Still, I don’t expect it to be a huge factor, even with some predicting the Falcons will be playing angry after almost getting embarrassed by the Bears – there’s something about hanging on for a victory that gives a team a feeling of relief more than momentum (like if they had won at the lest second on offense). The Packers are a solid veteran team and I expect them to take the crowds (and sound systems) best shot.
The Pass Rush
The Packers pass rush was dominant last week, but they were playing one of the worst OLines in the league. This week, they will face a stout line that features a group of starters that each have at least four years of starting experience in the NFL. They’re not invincible, though , as they gave up a lot of pressure to the Bears defense last week. The Packers will try to match that, but it will be tougher in a dome where the offensive pace is much quicker.
Offensive Line Health
On the other side, the Packers lack of depth at OT is already showing. Bulaga was sent home with the flu this week and is still gimping on his ankle and DBak has been limited with a hamstring. Oh, Spriggs is hurt too. That’s the top three tackles on the team. But if DBak is out, forget everything else I say – Packers lose. Last year, we faced Atlanta with a depleted backfield and depleted secondary – this time it could be a depleted offensive line… with similar results. McCarthy is great at game-planning around injuries (he’s had plenty of practice), but this could be a really tough one.
Who Will Even Play?
There’s no season killing injuries, but a lot of guys are banged up for Week 2. DBak, Bulaga, Daniels, Mt Adams, and Brice are all questionable, while Ahmad Brooks is doubtful and Spriggs is already out. That’s six guys who could all play big roles (four of them are basically starters and two were counted on for big rotational snaps) that may not play – there’s only 11 guys on each side, so do the math. A Sunday night road game followed by a Thursday game (this should never happen, NFL) could make for some even more conservative calls on activating (or not activating) injured players… and the Packers are already conservative.
Will Big Mike try to use two tight end sets and bring in the Ripper for lead blocking to pound the Falcons fast defense into submission? Will he try to run 90 plays to wear them out like the Patriots did? He has the tools to try either, but I don’t expect MM is looking forward to a track meet against a bombs away team playing in their sh!tty new dome. However, Rodgers will certainly be less rusty than he looked last week.
This is what everyone will be talking about, of course, so I put it at the bottom since most of you won’t make it this far, anyway. If you did: sorry, now you have to read this. Julio Jones is the best receiver in the game and he had his way with the Packers last January. Now we have a healthy Randall and Rollins and added “JulioBane” House back into the fold. Will it be enough to stop him? Probably not, but they can slow him down enough to win. Guarding Mohammed Sanu will be equally important.
The Packers will look for a balanced approach to slow the game down while Falcons try to make it a track meet. Turnovers will play a critical role, as they did in January. With a healthy defense, the Packers worst case scenario is probably losing by less than they did last time. If DBak and Bulaga both shows (I’m expecting the first one at least and the second one proved to have a serviceable backup) up and the defense keeps that chip on their shoulder, the Packers should be able to get the crowd simmered down and generate a groove, using Martellus Bennett and Ty Montgomery to control the pace. Mike Daniels leads the way in attitude again, but Perry’s bull rush and CM3’s quick edge moves keep Freeman contained on the edges (making ILB big in the matchup) and make Matty Ice’s day more uncomfortable than usual. Crosby wins it in the end.
Packers 34, Falcons 32