The Packers take on the Atlanta Falcons Sunday night on NBC. We've got you covered with everything you need to know about this game.
Storylines to watch
Who will cover Julio Jones? The last time the Packers played in Atlanta, the prolific Falcons receiver hauled in nine catches for 180 total receiving yards and two touchdowns. However, Jones had foot surgery in the offseason and didn’t make much of an impact in last week’s opener at Chicago with five targets, four passes and 66 yards. But even with a new offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian, Atlanta’s multi-faceted offense has plenty ways to punish the Packers. Which leads us to our next question…
Can Davon House break out as the complete, polished corner the Packers want him to be? His progress is important, but the all-important Jones likely see coverage from all of the above: House, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and even rookie Kevin King. Welcome to the NFL! Also something to think about: The Packers’ top corner the last time these squads met was LaDarius Gunter, who the Packers released Tuesday. That being said, Green Bay’s secondary is much healthier now than it was when Atlanta QB Matt Ryan torched it for 392 yards in last season’s NFC Championship Game.
How has Green Bay’s offense evolved since the NFC Championship Game, and will it be a difference-maker Sunday? In the season opener, six different Packers caught multiple receptions and five of them recorded 20-plus-yard receptions. On top of that, Geronimo Allison returns this week from a Week 1 suspension. It’s no secret that Aaron Rodgers has plenty targets to choose from, including Ty Montgomery, who was a tough runner wearing down an elite defense in a gritty win against Seattle. His ability to catch in the backfield creates mismatches and an element to the offense that has developed in a huge way since the last time these two teams met.
Who will protect No. 12? RT Bryan Bulaga was at home, in bed all week with a flu-like illness -- in addition to an ankle injury he’s been nursing throughout the preseason. His return would be ideal for the Packers, especially given LT David Bakhtiari limited in practice this week with a hamstring injury. Kyle Murphy fared OK facing the elite Seattle defensive line, and Jason Spriggs is out with a hamstring injury behind him. The depth on offensive line became so dire this week the Packers moved to sign undrafted rookie Adam Pankey from their practice squad. Needless to say, the Packers would love to have their veteran right tackle back in Atlanta, against a team that led the NFL with 15 sacks in 2016 and notched four sacks against the Bears last week. “The ankle is getting better,” Bulaga said Friday. “As time passes, I feel like it’s getting stronger, it’s getting better. So maybe kneeling on the ground, throwing up might’ve helped it. We’ll say that.”
How does the defense follow up its performance against Seattle? Mike Daniels and Nick Perry led the way on defense with 1.5 sacks apiece and constant disruption of Russell Wilson. The defense as a whole held the Seahawks to just nine points, the fewest allowed by the Pack in Week 1 since a 28-6 win against Detroit in 2001. Those are tall orders to replicate in Week 2, against a much more dynamic offensive attack. Atlanta will look to establish its run game early and often, so the Packers hope Daniels is able to play after limited participation throughout practice this week. TE Austin Hooper will give the Packers problems up the middle, too, forcing safeties to make a critical decision between covering him or the always-dangerous Jones. The Falcons offense has the ability to spread the Packers much thinner than Seattle did -- as the NFC Championship Game clearly showed -- but the Packers’ infamous “nitro” package gives Green Bay the speed advantage it will very much need in Atlanta.
Numbers to know
- 11: Missed tackles Falcons had at Chicago
- 2: Straight years Green Bay plays at a new stadium in Week 2 (Last year, it was the Vikings’ new U.S. Bank Stadium)
- 3-4: Rankings of Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers among the NFL passing leaders in Week 1
Alex Smith tops the chart of passing leaders for week 1. pic.twitter.com/u25dLbBSvD
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) September 12, 2017
- Last regular-season meeting: Falcons won, 33-32, at the Georgia Dome on Oct. 30, 2016
- Packers lead the all-time series, 17-15, but are 6-10 in Atlanta
- Atlanta has won two straight after Green Bay took four consecutive games from the Falcons between 2011-14.
- The Packers have won three of the last four regular-season meetings against Atlanta.
What they’re saying in Atlanta
- D. Orlando Ledbetter’s three key matchups, including how Atlanta will deal with Martellus Bennett, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery
- Falcons decipher Dom Capers’ “nitro” and discuss what their offense has to do
- Breaking down a winning strategy against Aaron Rodgers
- RB Devonta Freeman looking to rebound against Packers
- Things to know about the $1.5 billion, brand-spankin’-new Mercedes-Benz stadium
What they’re saying in Titletown
- The Packers are looking to get rid of “a sick feeling in our stomach” after last season’s lopsided loss at Atlanta…
- ...But No. 12 accepts “you can’t rewrite history"
- Michael Cohen takes a closer look at the speedy punt coverage by Josh Jones and Jeff Janis, which should create plenty problems for opponents
- Jason Wilde writes that -- spolier alert -- Aaron Rodgers is still elite despite last week’s near-pick-six
- Rob Demovsky explores how RB Ty Montgomery, like Patriots back James White, could help the Packers win big games like this
- Family affair: LB Clay Matthews will be going up against his cousin, Falcons LT Jake Matthews again. “We seem to be playing Atlanta quite a bit now, and it’s grown a little bit bigger than us going against each other,” Clay Matthews said. “It’s always fun to play against family, and I’ve enjoyed watching his success. He continues to get better and be one of their top lineman. So whoever is lining up against him, best of luck to us.”
- This GOAT lives indoors: Aaron Rodgers has faced the Falcons five times during the regular season, completing 129 of 185 passes (69.7 percent) for 1,626 yards and 13 TD’s and one interception, which is good for a 118.0 passer rating. The Packers QB has also recorded a 111.2 rating in indoor regular-season games (580-of-854 for 7.247 yards, 59 TD’s and 12 INT’s), which ranks No. 1 in the league for passer ratings in indoor games over that span
- Hot in Hotlanta: Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn is in his third year after leading Atlanta to its second NFC Championship. The Falcons offense finished second in the NFL in passing touchdowns and total yards per game. Quinn inherited the league’s 32nd-ranked defense in 2014 and transformed it to No. 16 in his first season.
Injury report: Packers
- Questionable: DT Montravius Adams (foot), LT David Bakhtiari (hamstring), S Kentrell Brice (quadricep/knee), RT Bryan Bulaga (ankle, illness), DT Mike Daniels (hip)
- Doubtful: LB Ahmad Brooks (concussion)
- Out: T Jason Spriggs (hamstring)
Injury report: Falcons
- Questionable: RB Brian Hill (ankle)
- Unlisted: S Kemal Ishmael (hamstring), C Alex Mack (back), T Austin Pasztor (chest), LB Duke Riley (knee), TE Eric Saubert (hamstring)
How to watch
NBC will broadcast the game nationally, and locally on NBC26 at 7:30 CDT from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Play-by-play man Al Michaels joins analyst Cris Collinsworth in the booth with Michele Tafoya reporting from the sidelines. NBC26 Sports Director Charlie Sokaitis will report from Mercedes-Benz Stadium, along with Chris Barriere and Kelly Price back in the Green Bay studio for a one-hour pregame show from 5-6 p.m., and postgame from 10:35-11:05 p.m.
- Don’t miss Charlie Sokaitis’ exclusive interview with RB Ty Montgomery during the NBC26 pregame show
- “Cheese ‘N’ Packers” continues at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with Packers insider Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel