The Atlanta Falcons got off to a scorching hot start this season, winning four of their first five games. They’ve since lost back-to-back games to the Seahawks and Chargers and are showing signs of their 2015 collapse. Their next game against the Packers isn’t must-win, but it is certainly one they’d love to have.
It won’t be easy with Aaron Rodgers coming to town, but this sets up for a game the Falcons should win. The Packers are riddled with injuries at some key spots, particularly in the secondary. That’s not to say Julio Jones will set all kinds of records, but he hasn’t faced a worse secondary in a long time.
Here are three reasons the Falcons will win this game and move to 5-3.
Getty ImagesScott Cunningham
Matt Ryan is outstanding at home
The Falcons know there's nothing like being a “dome team.” There’s never a weather factor, the turf is fast, as they say, and crowd noise is in abundance. For quarterbacks, this usually means their wide receivers won’t fall down, and there will be no wind issues. In other words, it’ll be like playing in a bubble of perfect conditions. That’s not to say Matt Ryan is only good at home, but he’s understandably better when playing under the Georgia Dome roof.
In his career, he’s 44-21 at home but 34-34 on the road. He’s completed 67 percent of his passes at home (62 percent on the road), and his passer rating is 10 points higher than it is when he’s away from the Georgia Dome. Every single one of his statistics is better when playing in front of the home crowd.
On the other side, the crowd will be loud when the Packers are on offense, which will certainly cause communication issues. It won’t be the biggest determinant of who wins this game, but it will definitely play a role.
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The Packers will be unbalanced on offense
In addition to being riddled with injuries on defense, the Packers are dangerously thin at running back. Eddie Lacy is out with an ankle injury while James Starks has a knee ailment that’s sidelined him for weeks. Neither will play Sunday – or any time soon, probably – leaving Ty Montgomery, Don Jackson and Knile Davis to carry the load at running back. Those aren’t particularly exciting names, especially considering Montgomery is a wide receiver by trade.
With Green Bay being so depleted at running back, Aaron Rodgers will be forced to air it out at least 40 times. That’s not necessarily a bad thing against the Falcons’ poor pass defense, but it’s also not ideal. The Falcons won’t be baited by play action to Montgomery and will be able to sit back and expect pass more often than not. This game figures to be a shootout, but at least the Falcons have the threat of running the ball in their arsenal. The Packers do not.
The Post-Crescent via USA TODAY SportsDan Powers
Julio Jones can’t be covered by Green Bay’s cornerbacks
The Packers will come into this game without their three best cornerbacks. Sam Shields is on IR, while Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall are dealing with injuries of their own – latter of which will sideline Randall for a few weeks. As a result, their secondary will be depleted against the league’s best passing attack. Translation: The Falcons are going to throw it all over the yard.
Matt Ryan is having an MVP-caliber season, which is helped by the play of Julio Jones – a candidate to win Offensive Player of the Year. Ryan and Jones have had a fantastic connection all year and throughout their respective careers, and they’ll keep it rolling on Sunday in a big way. Jones can’t be contained by the league’s best cornerbacks, so he certainly won’t be stopped by the Packers’ backup DBs. Heck, he topped 250 yards back in 2014 against the Packers at Lambeau Field.
With the game in Atlanta under the dome, there’s no telling how many yards he’ll put up, but it could be a record-type day.