Healthy Backfields Benefit Packers and Falcons

On this week’s episode of Blue 58, Gary and I argued that there’s really not a lot of difference between the versions of the Packers and Falcons that we’ll see on Sunday and the teams we saw in late October. Both were high flying, pass-oriented offenses at the time, and they both are now.

I still believe that, but there’s one important caveat we need to make: both teams will be very different in the offensive backfield.

We saw what Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan could do the last time around, but this Sunday we’ll also see both teams’ fully powered rushing attacks.

When Green Bay traveled to Atlanta in Week 8, the cupboard was pretty bare at running back. Ty Montgomery was on the shelf with complications from his sickle cell trait, and Christine Michael was still a member of the Seattle Seahawks. As a result, here’s what the ground game produced:

  • Aaron Rodgers - 6 carries, 60 yards
  • Aaron Ripkowski - 6 carries, 34 yards
  • Don Jackson - 4 carries, 10 yards
  • Knile Davis - 3 carries, 4 yards

Now, with Montgomery healthy, Michael more integrated, and Aaron Ripkowski filling his more traditional role, the running game is significantly different and significantly better. This isn’t to say that it should become a disproportionate part of the offense, but at least the Packers will have options.

The same could also be said of the Falcons, though. The last time these two teams met, Tevin Coleman was out with an injury. With half of their two headed running back monster sidelined, the Falcons turned to Devonta Freeman to shoulder more of the load. He responded with just 35 yards on 11 carries. Terron Ward also chipped in 46 yards on six carries, but the attack was significantly diminished.

Coleman and Freeman combined for nearly 2,500 yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns, and with both of them healthy, the Packers’ linebackers could be in for a long day. Like the Packers, the Falcons shouldn’t lean on their running backs to heavily, but it has to be a big plus to have both available.