Packers at Falcons: Gameday Preview - 2023 Week 2

The Packers mopped the floor with the Bears for a 9th straight time last week. This week, they go for their 3rd straight win against the Falcons.

The last time the Packers played the Falcons was in 2020 when Atlanta came to Green Bay. The Packers jumped out to a 20-3 lead and it was never really close. Robert Tonyan had 3 touchdowns and Rodgers threw 4 total touchdowns.

But Rodgers and Tonyan are both gone, just like Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are gone from the Falcons.

In just a few short years, these teams are completely made over. Now, Jordan Love and Desmond Ridder lead completely new casts against each other.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

The first game of the Jordan Love era was an unquestionable success. While he wasn't perfect, Love showed poise in the pocket and a command of the offense. He missed some balls early, but also came through with some clutch plays (3rd and long, 4th and 3 come to mind).

He'll face a better defense this week. The Falcons show a lot of different looks in their defensive backfield, which will test Love. However, Matt LaFleur has been great at putting Jordan Love in a position to succeed in his short career. Love will need to be quick and decisive playing against a fast defense.

Falcons safety Jesse Bates had two picks last week. Both of them came when he broke hard on tight passes in the middle of the field. He wasn't out there chasing down floaters, he picked off some fast balls. Those are the kind of situations that the previous Packers quarterback always avoided. Jordan Love worked the middle of the field effectively last week, but will need to look off the safety again to avoid these kind of plays.

Leaning on the run game will help the offense avoid that. Aaron Jones is dealing with a hamstring injury, but it does not appear to be serious. However, it may limit how much he is used (which, oddly, happens even when he seems totally healthy). AJ Dillon didn't have a lot of production last week, so Patrick Taylor may take on an expanded role. Falcons inside linebacker Troy Andersen, who led the team in tackles last week, is out for this game, which should give the Packers a little boost in the run game. (UPDATE: Aaron Jones is expected to be inactive - I expect this to lead to a decrease in running success, but not a major overhaul to the gameplan. The Packers should still be able to move the chains running the ball if they can wear down the Atlanta front by rotating fresh backs).

Last week, the Panthers ran 32 times for 154 yards against Atlanta, and it wasn't because of one or two long runs skewed the average. The grinded out consistent yards. The Packers are more than capable of doing that, too. But they'll need better blocking in the interior to pull it off.

Josh Myers was a train wreck in run blocking last week, single-handedly ruining many promising plays. This week, Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata will give the Packers fits if Myers plays like he did last year. The Packers may need to combo block on the inside all day and could lean on Josiah Deguara as a lead blocker.

The rest of the line performed well overall, but center is a concern against a strong Atlanta front that is sure to attack the Packers weakness.

 

WHEN THE PACKERS ARE ON DEFENSE

The Falcons have an inexperienced young quarterback and ran a lot of short passes last week to compensate.

Desmond Ridder who has some nice tools, but lacks experience and heavy production. In 5 career starts, he's never thrown for 225 yards. He's also never thrown an interception. He's a careful passer who still has the training wheels on. He leans on short stuff, especially to his running backs. Last week, he had 9 completions to running backs, 3 to wide receivers, and 2 to tight ends.

Last year, he leaned heavily on big receiver Drake London, but last week, London only saw one target (which he dropped). The Falcons will surely try to mix that up this week, but the running game will be the focus of their attack.

Rookie running back Bijan Robinson was one of the higher-rated running back prospects to come out in a while, and Tyler Allgeier rushed for over 1,000 yards as a rookie last year. Both are physical, forward-leaning runners who are tough to bring down. Plus, Robinson was a really weapon our of the backfield. His 6 catches were more than anyone else's targets (Mack Hollins, 4), and he had an impressive move to get his receiving touchdown.

With an offense predicated on a two-back running attack and a lot of short passes, the Packers defensive front will need to be every bit as active and disruptive as they were last week. While they won't have to chase Justin Fields around, Robinson is shifty and he and Allgeier both run with power. Intensity will be key.

 

OTHER NOTES

Jerry Gray, who was the Packers defensive backs coach for the last 3 years, is now the assistant head coach in Atlanta - he will no doubt help Ridder prepare to face the Packers defensive backs and probably knows more about Jordan Love than most opposing coaches.

I don't know if any other Packers kickers had 5 extra points and a 50 yard field goal in their debut before, but it was a very impressive start for Anders Carlson, especially considering his struggles in training camp.

Aaron Jones and Christian Watson are the two biggest weapons the Packers have - both are listed as Questionable on the injury report.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Packers and Falcons both looked good against easy opponents in Week 1. 

This week, things get tougher for both of them. The Falcons have a strong defensive line and a ball-hawking safety, meaning Jordan Love will need to be dialed in. Judging by last week, I don't think that will be a problem. Matt LaFleur trusted him to throw in key situations and he came through. As his confidence grows, this offense can really open up.

On the other side, Desmond Ridder is still being brought along slowly and hasn't been called on for those clutch throws yet. I expect them to run a lot of misdrection with running backs, but I think the Packers speed and energy on defense will be more than enough to counteract this.

Packers 27, Falcons 17

 

 

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Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

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5 points
 

Comments (14)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
greengold's picture

September 17, 2023 at 06:35 am

This really is a great preview, Bruce. You nailed the key points well.

Savage & Nixon are going to be key in shutting down ATL’s RBs, both via run and short passes. Walker & Campbell too.

Applying big big heat on their QB with pass rush and PDs will help as well. Two very dynamic young teams.

Sure tackling, CTFB, Packers, and Run to Daylight. 100% effort through 100% of the game. Every snap. Let’s see if our D can get another pick 6 or two today.

LFG GPG AGNFB

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TKWorldWide's picture

September 17, 2023 at 08:49 am

Big, big fan of the pick 6 here. Electrifying for the D and demoralizing for the opposition.
I know that the math doesn’t support this, BUT it always FEELS LIKE a score from the D or the ST’s counts MORE than a regular TD.
(Maybe I’m off my meds, but do you sort of agree?)
GPG!

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greengold's picture

September 17, 2023 at 11:14 am

Absolutely!!! It would be fun for this D to turn today into a pick party, with GB building a big lead and ATL forced to throw.

That pass rush could force ATL into those situations, with the Packers DBs cleaning up. That’s my hope anyway.

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fireball's picture

September 17, 2023 at 07:27 am

I still have doubts concerning the Packers ability, consistently, to stop an opponents running game. The Falcons running game will test the Packers defense against the run. . . and short passes.

On offense for the Packers, without Aaron Jones, I just don't know if the Packers can beat the Falcons. The Packers were barely ahead of the Bears until LaFleur finally allowed Jones to play steadily in the third quarter. . . effectively blowing the game open for the Packers.

So many questions for the Packers this season; not so much for the players, but for the coaching.

Still, I look forward to the game today.

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NitschkeFromTheGrave's picture

September 17, 2023 at 08:47 am

These two teams match up pretty well. For the packers to win in my opinion there are a few key elements needed, if not totally necessary.
1. The D-Line has got to start stepping up to shut down the run. We need to keep the Falcons running under 90 yards.
2. One interception WITH PAYOFF PTS and/or win the turnover battle.
3. Most of you know, I am not a Jordon Love fan (yet), as with most of you I also am squinting while pulling for him at the same time. However MLF needs to start trusting the young gun if Love is going to make it to the next level of play. Last week (esp in the first half) it was clear by the play calling MLF was squeamish about letting the leash on Love out.

Packers 28 | Falcons 26

GPG !

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stockholder's picture

September 17, 2023 at 09:02 am

With jones out, who steps up?
To Be or not to Be. That is the QUESTION!
Or will they be Lost.
Who will spark this Offense?
Only one person can do this. LOVE!
And thats exactly why the packers
don’t have enough weapons.
The quick strike is gone.

A Bend but don’t Break Defense.
Can only keep them in the game.
It’s up to Love to find other options.

Sts must keep the field position in our favor.
And today is the day we see the next step.
If the picks of Gutey, can “Be” a difference.

3 points
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MooPack's picture

September 17, 2023 at 09:22 am

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of dirty birds, and by opposing end them?

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NickPerry's picture

September 17, 2023 at 09:33 am

"Aaron Jones and Christian Watson are the two biggest weapons the Packers have - both are listed as Questionable on the injury report."

You know what else is questionable... The Packers strength and conditioning coaches... I know I've beat this horse dead, but it pisses me off to no end ONCE AGAIN the Packers are dealing with soft muscle injuries.

I'll say this as well...Not too crazy about watching Rashon Gary OR David Bakhtiari playing on that crappy ass field turf either.

Even with all that I'm still sticking with the Packers 27 - 13. The defense ROLLS and in particular Devante Wyatt & Kenny Clark overtake thus game early!

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MooPack's picture

September 17, 2023 at 09:46 am

Soft muscle injuries are mainly avoidable with hydration, electrolytes, and stretching, stretching, stretching. Watson in particular needs to be put on a plan for exactly this. Two years running now. If the S&C coaches are clueless about this, bring in someone that can input that knowledge into their cranial recesses.

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greengold's picture

September 17, 2023 at 11:17 am

Exactly, Moo! Couldn’t agree more.

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CheesedDeadHead's picture

September 17, 2023 at 11:50 am

"You know what else is questionable... The Packers strength and conditioning coaches... I know I've beat this horse dead, but it pisses me off to no end ONCE AGAIN the Packers are dealing with soft muscle injuries."

With MLF's history of coaches (manninga/Drayton/Barry), what makes you think:
1) that he can even identify the issue
2) that he would act if he could identify the issue.

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jhtobias's picture

September 17, 2023 at 10:27 am

so since almost every team in the nfl have hamstring issues especially with young speed guys because their bodies are getting used to nfl all strength and coaches should be fired under your medical degree,

Fans like you who think or truly believe they have all the answers are truly the most annoying and sufficing people to read . But oh well this is America so even the dumb get Free speech .

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jont's picture

September 17, 2023 at 10:57 am

After watching the Falcons-Panthers game I said the Packers should win by 2-3 scores if both teams played as they did in week one. With Jones out, I see the margin getting tighter. Much will depend on Taylor or Wilson getting to the edge, I believe.

Beyond this, I just don't see the Falcons scoring much. Their O is basically getting a skill player in space and hoping he does something. A play or two should pop for them but this is not the kind of offense that wins in the NFL.

Could be a low scoring game. GB by 8 or 10.

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North of 49th's picture

September 17, 2023 at 11:09 am

I know it's artificial turf in Atlanta but you're paid to play the games. If Bakh is sitting these games because of the turf maybe it's time to move on. You're paid to play 17 games not pick and choose which ones you want to play. I don't like it but that's your job.

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