NFL 2017 Week 2: Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons preview and prediction

The rematch of a playoff game dominated by the Falcons a year ago comes as Atlanta christens their new stadium.


Week 1 recap

The Packers offense is used to getting the lion’s share of the glory in Green Bay, but it was their defense that stepped up to carry the load in a 17-9 opening win at home over Seattle. The offense went scoreless in the first half, but Mike Daniels’ strip sack of Russell Wilson early in the third quarter set the Pack up for a quick Ty Montgomery touchdown run that gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Aaron Rodgers, who battled his way to 300 yards passing against the rugged Seahawks defense, salted it away with a long TD pass to Jordy Nelson, as the defense held Seattle to just 225 yards.

The Falcons may have been suffering a bit of a hangover in their first regular season game since their heartbreaking Super Bowl loss. Facing the rebuilding Bears in Chicago, Atlanta had their hands full all game. It looked like they might have shook off the pesky Bears when Matt Ryan scrambled and found Austin Hooper for an 88-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass to put them ahead 20-10. But Chicago fought back and, facing a 23-17 deficit, drove down to the Falcon five-yard line in the last minute. But on fourth-and-goal, Brooks Reed sacked Bears quarterback Mike Glennon to preserve the 23-17 win.

Will it be deja vu?

In last year’s NFC Championship game, the Falcons scored at will in drubbing a Green Bay team many thought were headed to the Super Bowl. In that contest, Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest of the Falcons playmakers seemed to do whatever they wanted against the Packers defense. But last week, Atlanta struggled to convert drives against the Bears, while the Packers defense showed some teeth in dominating Seattle. Does that mean the Packers defense is ready for the challenge this time around?

Run, Pack, run

There was a lot of Packer blame to go around in that 44-21 loss to the Falcons a year ago, but the lack of a running game was an underrated culprit. Of the 99 yards the Packers managed on the ground, 46 came on Aaron Rodgers scrambles. It appears that the Packers running game is on better footing this year with Ty Montgomery taking over the lead back role, and the Falcons struggled a bit with versatile backs Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen a week ago.

Who has Julio?

Julio Jones tore the Packers up to the tune of 180 yards receiving with two scores in that NFC Championship win. The Packers will throw Davon House, Damarious Randall and any number of safeties at Jones in an effort to slow him down. They are all mismatches, however, as are most defensive backs against the NFL’s most athletically-gifted receiver. Perhaps the best way to stop him is to pressure Matt Ryan so he can’t find Jones way downfield.

Falcons Ts Jake Matthews and Ryan Schraeder vs Packers DE Mike Daniels and OB Nick Perry

In the victory over Seattle, Daniels and Perry were a constant presence in the Seahawks backfield, with Daniels changing the course of the game with a third quarter strip-sack. Matthews and Schraeder helped Ryan go pretty much untouched in the NFC Championship, but they’re facing a pair of hot pass rushers.

Fantasy football tip – Packers TE Martellus Bennett

Bennett is a weapon in the middle of the field with the size and hands to do damage against the Falcons middle-of-the-field defenders, who are fast but smallish. In a game where Atlanta will be focused on handling the Packers perimeter threats, Bennett could do some serious damage right in the heart of the defense.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers 34-29 Atlanta Falcons

Aaron Rodgers is just licking his chops to get another crack at this one, and the Falcons seemed to be struggling to find their rhythm in Chicago. Revenge trumps the new stadium boost.

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Jim Beviglia

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Jim is a freelance writer concentrating on music and sports. He is the author of four books and writes for several online and print publications. He lives in Old Forge, Pennsylvania with his wife Marie and his daughter Daniele.

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