Friday, December 05, 2014

Preview: Packers Host The First Place Falcons

I wouldn't have picked on the Falcons for being in first place despite a 5-7 record, but this picture I posted below already had it mentioned in the caption (without pointing out what a joke it is that they're in first place in the weak NFC South).
The Falcons aren't quite as bad as their record would indicate. They've only been outscored by 8 points this season which would be more indicative of a .500 team. And they would be 7-5 or 6-6 if Mike Smith hadn't botched their clock management during close losses to the Lions and Browns. Atlanta has a terrible defense, currently ranked as the worst by Football Outsiders, but QB Matt Ryan is having a solid season, currently ranked No. 8 overall by FO, despite their lack of a rushing attack. They remind me a little of the Rodgers-less 8-7-1 2013 Packers that snuck into the playoffs through a weak NFC North.

They also came within a couple plays beating the Packers in Lambeau last December, eventually coming up short by one point, against many of the same players (though, obviously, QB Aaron Rodgers missed the game last season with a broken collarbone). They're also coming off a comfortable win over the Cardinals, who are currently ranked ahead of the Packers for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They could take this in and find a reason to believe they'll be competitive on Monday night.

However, the Packers are playing much better as a team this season, and with their win over the Patriots last week, they now have a strong case for being the best NFL team. That's almost the exact opposite from where the Packers were last December, when they needed a close win against the Falcons to snap a five game winless streak.

The only thing that kept the Packers from running up the score against the Patriots last week was their struggles in the red zone. Overall, they've been scoring touchdowns on 58% of their red zone trips this season, and they're not going 0-4 in the red zone against the Falcons. The score should be similar to recent victims at Lambeau (Bears, Eagles).

Packers 41, Falcons 14.

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