Sunday, September 17th. A date us Packer fans have had circled on the calendar since a 44-21 drubbing in the NFC Championship game. For the third time in two seasons, the Packers and Falcons will match up against each other, these two teams have become very familiar with each other as of late, much like many other NFC powerhouses like Seattle and Dallas. Similar to last year, the Packers will play a team who is opening up a new stadium during week two on Sunday Night Football, last year being the Vikings. That game ended in defeat for the Packers. This year, in the NFC Championship rematch, emotions will be high on both sides as each team wants to open up 2-0 on the young season.
- Martellus Bennett vs Falcons Linebackers/Safeties:
Last week, the newest acquisition to the Packers showed just how much of a force he can be for an already stout Packers offense. While the offense did not have it’s best day, it was against a Seattle team who has consistently led the league in defense for the better half of the current decade. Bennett will be able to provide much needed spacing the Packers haven’t had since the days of Jermichael Finley. This Falcons defense is much better than last year, and the linebackers and safeties, while very young in their NFL careers, have proven they can handle the best the league has to offer. For most of the game, Bennett will be matched up with linebackers Deion Jones, De’Vondre Campbell, and safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. All of whom are very young but possess tremendous speed. Only time will tell if Bennett will be able to get free from defenders, but even if he does not become open, he will bring a second man on him, leaving a player like Randall Cobb or backup tight ends, Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers playing favorable one on one coverage.
- Julio Jones vs Packers Secondary
In the NFC Championship game last year, Julio Jones torched a horrendous Packers secondary for 180 yards and two touchdowns. While the Packers have improved their corner backs and safeties with a returning Davon House, and drafting Kevin King and Josh Jones, it could take an almost perfect performance to shut down one of the best, if not the best, wide receiver in the NFL. Yes the Bears of all teams held Jones to just five receptions for 66 yards. If the Packers secondary can do that on Sunday, a win won’t be out of reach.
- Packers Offensive Line vs Falcons Front Seven
Last week, the offensive line for the Packers allowed four sacks against one of the best defensive lines in the league. This week, the competition will not be as fierce, but the Falcons defensive line has the ability to cause havoc if need be. The addition of Dontari Poe adds much needed size to the front seven that already boasts a lot of speed. Speed and size is a deadly combination, and once again, the Packers will have to face that combination. As far as the Packers offensive line is concerned, if right tackle Bryan Bulaga cannot go again, it will be up to backup Kyle Murphy once again. He held his ground last week against Cliff Avril, but the projected matchup at right tackle will be Vic Beasley who is much faster than Avril. Expect a lot of noise from Beasley early and often, especially if Bulaga is a scratch on Sunday.
Players to Watch:
- Offense – Geronimo Allison, Wide Receiver
It was in the Packers week eight matchup last year when the world was introduced to Geronimo Allison. After being signed to the 53 man roster from the practice squad earlier that week. His first reception in the league was a four yard touchdown catch early in the game. Allison did not play last week because he was serving a one game suspension, but he has stated that he will be ready in any situation. “G-MO” as many of his teammates call him, will be an x-factor when fellow wide receivers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams are not on the field. Allison may not get a lot of playing time, but when he is on the field, expect him to make an impact.
- Defense – Nick Perry, Linebacker
Nick Perry came out on the first drive of the game last week and already started to prove that he is worthy of that five year, $60 million dollar contract. On the very first play from scrimmage, Perry had put Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson on the ground, forcing an incomplete pass, then came back a play later, sacking Wilson, forcing a three and out on the very first drive for Seattle. Perry would finish the game with three tackles, one and a half sacks, and two quarterback hits. This kind of production will be very helpful against the Falcons, who do not possess that great of an offensive line in the league. If Nick Perry and others can get pressure on Matt Ryan early and often, it could be a long day for Atlanta.
Expect a lot of points scored this week. Two of the best offenses in the league in a controlled environment on prime time television means the new scoreboard in Atlanta will be put to good use. The week eight matchup last season came down to the final drive, and this Sunday night will be no different. Green Bay vs Atlanta has game of the year potential even though it is only week two. Ironically, this game may come down to which defense can get a stop in crunch time. Because Green Bay executed their defense against Seattle last week, I have to give the edge to Green Bay. 38-34, Packers win in an absolute classic, and spoil the opening of the brand new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.