In last season’s second game, the Packers christened the bird-murdering Minneapolis monstrosity that the Vikings call home with a 30-13 loss. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer’s defense was healthy at the time, throttling Aaron Rodgers and leading to talk of a Vikings Super Bowl.
This season’s second game sees the Packers traveling to Atlanta to break in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium against a team that played ¾ of a Super Bowl last season. The Packers are coming off a low-scoring affair against Seattle, while the Falcons made the Bears defense look like the Brian Urlacher era again.
The defense of the Packers will be on a mission to prove that last year’s NFC Championship Game beatdown by Atlanta was an aberration, attributable to injuries on defense, that forced wide receivers from the practice squad to take reps at cornerback.
The Falcons will be playing to get a crucial home win against a likely playoff opponent. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan looks to improve his 4-4 record against the Packers, he is 3-3 in the regular season and 1-1 in the playoffs.
Ryan had an excellent game against the Bears last week, going 21-for-30 with 321 yards and one touchdown, comparable numbers to Aaron Rodgers’ against Seattle last week. The Falcons’ rushing game was held to an uncharacteristic 64 rushing yards against the Bears’ new-look front seven.
Devonta Freeman led Atlanta’s rushing attack with 12 carries for 37 hard-fought yards and one touchdown. Austin Hooper broke free on his two catches for 128 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter.
Julio Jones always presents a threat to the Packers’ secondary, the Bears gave up four catches for 66 yards to the Pro Bowler. Crafty veteran Mohamed Sanu racked up 84 yards on nine catches in the regular season meeting between the Packers and Falcons last year.
Falcons safety Brian Poole had a spectacular game in Chicago, with seven total tackles, including a sack and adding two quarterback hits. All told, Chicago quarterback Mike Glennon was hit 10 times for four sacks.
The Packers’ offensive line will have to keep Rodgers upright to pull off a huge win against a Super Bowl favorite playing in a shiny new stadium. Controlling the clock with a strong rushing attack and keeping Matty Ice and Julio Jones off the field will be the best way to succeed.
The Packers special teams looked ordinary against Seattle, while kicker Mason Crosby is basically automatic in domes, the return game may be an issue. Good field position will be a major factor against the opportunistic Falcons defense.
Fantasy pick for Atlanta: Austin Hooper will be picked up by many owners, but Julio Jones is the money pick this week. The Packers rebuilt secondary will struggle to bring him down.