Week 2 Preview: Packers Defense Faces Tough Task in NFC Championship Game Rematch
5 interesting facts to think about during the game
1. After the Bills’ four straight Super Bowl appearances in the early 1990’s, the loser of the Super Bowl has struggled the following season. Since 1994, no team has reached the Super Bowl the following season, and 43 percent have failed to make the playoffs. After losing in Super Bowl 50, the Carolina Panthers began the season 1-5, finished last in their division and missed the postseason.
2. The Falcons’ All-Pro receiver Julio Jones was targeted only five times in Atlanta’s Week 1 win over the Chicago Bears. The wide receiver has had some of his best performance against Green Bay, however. Two of his top four statistical outings have come against the Packers – January’s NFC Championship Game and a 2014 Monday Night Football contest in Lambeau Field.
3. Green Bay’s defense will likely have five new starters from the team’s NFC Championship Game lineup. Letroy Guion, Julius Peppers, Ladarius Gunter and Micah Hyde – starters in January’s contest – are no longer on the roster, and linebacker Joe Thomas will likely see the field as a rotational player and not a starter.
4. It was a quiet debut for the Packers’ rookies last Sunday. Cornerback Kevin King played just six snaps on defense, while safety Josh Jones only saw the field on special teams. Don’t read too much into it, though. The Packers started Micah Hyde over Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in Week 1 of Clinton-Dix’s rookie season.
5. In 2006, Packers general manager Ted Thompson signed safety Marquand Manuel to a five-year, $10 million contract. Manuel started all sixteen games that season for Green Bay, but was released the following offseason. After retiring in 2009, he has risen through the coaching ranks and now is in his first season as the Atlanta Falcons’ defensive coordinator.
Who could be an X-factor in Sunday’s game?
Jon says Joe Thomas
The last time the Packers and Falcons played, Joe Thomas never came off the field, one of three defensive players (along with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett) who played every defensive snap.
Partly due to necessity and partly to counter the Falcons’ aerial attack, the Packers turned to Thomas extensively in coverage situations. Even though both Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez played well in the season opener, the need for speed and coverage abilities could bring a repeat of the NFC Championship game’s personnel strategy.
Gary says Ty Montgomery
It’s a bit cliche picking Green Bay’s starting running back, but I am interested to see how Montgomery will look a week removed from a heavy workload against Seattle. Montgomery only eclipsed double digit rushing attempts once last season – sixteen carries against Chicago in December – and set a career-high with nineteen against the Seahawks in Week 1.
Both the Packers and Falcons have high-powered offenses that can score seemingly at will. Atlanta has two high-quality running backs, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, who can help ease the burden off quarterback Matt Ryan. Montgomery proved he can fill that role in last week’s win, and can continue to elevate his profile with another big performance against the Falcons.
What happened last time the Packers and Falcons played?
What didn’t happen the last time the Packers and Falcons played?
First, the Falcons blasted down the field and scored a touchdown on their opening drive. 7-0.
The Packers responded by moving down the field with relative ease in their first drive, only to have Mason Crosby miss for the first time in almost two months.
Then the Falcons moved down the field almost at will again, only to have to settle for a field goal and a relatively manageable 10-0 lead.
The Packers again moved into Falcons territory easily, only to have the Falcons rip the ball right out of Aaron Ripkowski's lumberjack arms and get an (at the very least) exceedingly generous touchback on the play.
Nine plays later, Matt Ryan was in the end zone, the Falcons were up 17-0, and the contest was largely academic from there, ending with the Packers limping to a 44-21 loss that had Christine Michael running out the clock behind a line that featured Letroy Guion at right guard.
All in all, a forgettable day.
Who will win Sunday’s Packers-Falcons game?
Jon says the Packers win by a point
The Packers made two trips to the Georgia Dome last year and they should have won at least one of them. I think they’ve improved enough on defense to keep this one close, and I like their chances in a close game. Give me a repeat of the October Packers/Falcons game, only with the Packers coming out on top this time.
Gary says the Packers by a field goal
The conversation surrounding the Packers’ defense this week is one of either two extremes: the defense is back – and in a big way, or the defense’s performance was a fluke against a bad Seahawks offense.
Realistically, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The Packers have done quite a bit to overhaul their defense, and they appear faster, more aggressive and confident. I like Green Bay’s chances to overcome a loud, playoff atmosphere in Atlanta.