What a difference a couple seasons makes. This week’s repeat of the 2016-17 NFC Championship Game is now a battle of conference lightweights, as the Green Bay Packers (4-7-1) host the Atlanta Falcons (4-8) at Lambeau Field on December 9th (1:00pm EST kickoff). The Packers, who just fired head coach Mike McCarthy, opened as 5.5-point favorites.
Atlanta’s offense is predicated on Matt Ryan putting the ball in the air. Their fifth-ranked passing attack deserves a large portion of the credit for the 24.7 points per game they score (14th). But Ryan wouldn’t want the praise to go any further without crediting his best receiver, Julio Jones, for their success.
The Falcons have needed this kind of effort from Ryan, as their rushing attack has been pathetic, averaging a horrendous 3.8 yards per carry (32nd). Ryan’s 3,814 passing yards and 25 touchdowns (8th) are the only thing keeping Atlanta’s offense respectable.
The connection between Ryan and Jones (1,323 receiving yards and three TDs) this season has been fantastic. But after a bit of a quiet game against the Ravens last week, where they only connected for 18 yards, expect Ryan to be looking for Jones early and often in Week 14.
Atlanta is going to need every bit of offense they can manage in Week 14, as their defense has been disgraceful this season. The Falcons are allowing 27.8 points per game, ranking 28th in the NFL. It’s no surprise teams are having an easy time scoring, as they cannot stop the run or pass, ranking 27th and 24th, respectively.
Average is the only way to portray the offense Atlanta will meet this week. Green Bay is only scoring 23.4 points per game (16th), but Aaron Rodgers and their seventh-ranked passing attack cannot be blamed for their inability to consistently put the ball in the endzone.
The QB has thrown for 3,504 yards with a 21:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio (99.3 passer rating). Davante Adams has been Rodgers’ favorite target, hauling in 85 passes for 1,115 yards and 11 TDs. But this offense won’t ever be feared until they get more from their 21st-ranked rushing attack. Facing a Falcons defense this week that surrenders 130.7 yards per game on the ground (27th), it’s a great opportunity to get Aaron Jones (642 rushing yards this season) rumbling.
Defensively, the Packers are a pretty mediocre group. They allow 23.9 PPG, ranking 17th in the NFL. They’ve been poor against the run, surrendering 127.8 yards per game on the ground (25th). Defending the pass has been more successful. Green Bay is giving up just 224.0 passing yards per game (6th). This may be the week to put Tevin Coleman in your fantasy lineup.
The last meeting between these two came on September 17th, 2017, when Atlanta overpowered Green Bay 34-23. The Falcons were 3.0-point favorites in that game.