Atlanta Falcons: Final Preparations For The Packers
Now that the Atlanta Falcons know the New Orleans Saints were trounced by Carolina, this would be a great time for them to circle the wagons again and seek a victory of Green Bay on the road.
Like other teams who have tried recently, that is a pretty tall task, one which Matt Ryan and his offensive unit must be up to the task. The defense, which helped to hold the Arizona Cardinals at bay last week, must play with smoke and mirrors or clone itself for this potential offensive fireworks display.
Here is the game preview for this week, according to the team’s website.
The Falcons and Packers have met 26 times in the regular season with Green Bay holding a 14-12 advantage in the all-time series, including a 22-21 win at Lambeau Field in 2013.
Top Matchup: Falcons CB Desmond Trufant vs Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
Trufant is well aware of the unbelievable season Rodgers is having, including throwing for 3,325 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2014. "He’s a great player, probably the best quarterback in the league, depending on who you look at," Trufant said. "He’s very confident. He’s got swagger, and he believes in all his players. We have to try and limit him and handle our job on the backend."
Speaking on a conference call earlier in the week, Rodgers returned the praise from Trufant. "It's a talented group, an ascending group, especially Trufant," Rodgers said. "He's got great feet and very good ball skills. He's around the football a lot."
Trufant has 44 tackles, 13 pass breakups and two interceptions this season. Falcons’ fans are hoping he adds to those stats with some game-changing plays against Rodgers Monday night.
Under the Radar Matchup: Falcons WR Devin Hester
It's not often that Hester can be considered "under the radar." Entering Monday's game, however, he's been overshadowed by the play of his fellow brothers in the receivers group. Despite Roddy White being questionable in Week 14, Jones and Harry Douglas have turned heads, especially after their Week 13 performances, combining for 305 yards against Arizona.
Not being talked about much doesn't bother Hester, who has been quietly preparing for the opportunities he'll get against the Packers defense. "It's just being more aggressive to the ball," Hester said. "That's my whole mentality this week. Being more aggressive to go get the ball, even on the easy throws, go and attack and stick with the basics."
In 15-career regular season games against the Packers, Hester has 12 receptions for 203 yards (16.9 avg.) and one touchdown. Among his return stats against Green Bay, he has logged 32 punt returns for 485 yards and two touchdowns.
On the Radar Matchup: Falcons WR Julio Jones
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy indicated via conference call this week that Jones is clearly on his team's radar, and likely has been even before Week 13's 189-receiving-yards performance. "He's a great player," McCarthy said. "He's definitely a game-changer. I think last week's game is an illustration of it."
Jones leads the Falcons with 82 receptions for 1,169 yards. He's up for the challenge of trying to replicate last Sunday's performance, facing a tough Packers secondary that has recorded 11 interceptions this season.
Number of the Game: 0
This week's number of the game is focused on the amount of interceptions that Rodgers has thrown at Lambeau Field in 2014, 0. He threw one interception in Week 1 at Seattle and his other two miscues were committed against the Saints at New Orleans in Week 8. Both games resulted in losses for Green Bay. If Atlanta is the first team to force an interception at Lambeau this season, an upset could be in the making.
Three Keys to Victory:
1. No Extra Chances for GB: "Their defense is opportunistic," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We’ve got to focus on ball security, and that starts with me. I’ve got to make good decisions in the pass game and be accurate with the football."
2. Disciplined Defense: Rodgers has the ability to make any throw on the field, allowing for explosive plays at any given time. Falcons’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said film study by his guys will be key in hopefully preventing Green Bay from executing the game-changing plays it’s known for this season. Studying what Rodgers' weapons like wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb do during their routes, trying to anticipate which guy does what and when, could pay huge dividends in Week 14.
3. Special Teams Play: Green Bay has multiple threats on special teams, including defensive back Micah Hyde and Cobb. In addition to defending such stars, Falcons special teams’ coordinator Keith Armstrong alluded to other keys in Monday night's game: "Devin has to manage the game well," Armstrong said. "Josh Harris has to snap well. Matt Bosherhas to do what he's supposed to do with the punts and the kickoffs. Matt Bryant is going to have his challenges. We just need to execute and go take care of our business, one play at a time."