The Falcons stay in the NFC North in week two but take a step up in competition when they take on the King of the North, Aaron Rodgers, and his army of cheeseheads. Week one was not pretty for the Falcons as they edged out the Bears, but when you look around the league, that was sort of the theme. Even a lot of the winners of week one games did not look particularly well doing it. That could be said for the Packers, who won a defensive battle in Lambeau with the Seattle Seahawks. Packers fans will immediately point to the improved defense that held Russell Wilson to just 158 yards passing and did not allow a single touchdown to Seattle. Ah, the Packers have a defense! Not so fast. Week one is filled with overreactions, and this week two matchup between two of the best teams of the NFC should have a much different feel to it than both of their week one games.
There is no question the Atlanta offense was not up to the high standard they set for themselves last Sunday. Though, a lot of this can be contributed to rust. Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Taylor Gabriel all received very limited in-game reps during the preseason. This was the first time all of them were on the field together for live action in over seven months, and it showed as all of them did not live up to their potential.
The same can be said for Green Bay, although they faced perhaps the toughest defense in the NFL. For the majority of the game, Seattle kept the Aaron Rodgers show in check. Although, like he always seems to do, Rodgers was able to pull of just enough magic to get the job done. There is no doubt there was rust in week one between Rodgers and his receivers, but expect that to be much improved in week two.
The Chicago defense was no joke however, as their monstrous defensive line manhandled the Falcons offensive line for the majority of the contest. It is just one week, and offensive lineman need to shake off the rust too, but that is the number one concern the Falcons offense has heading into their Sunday night matchup with Green Bay. First-time starter Wes Schweitzer was a mess at guard, especially in pass protection. He gave up more pressures than the rest of the Falcons offensive lineman combined according to Pro Football Focus and received a game grade of 30.8. The Packers have not had a notoriously dominant pass rush, but they spent money there this offseason and it paid off on Sunday. They took advantage of a poor Seahawks offensive line, sacking Wilson four times and pressuring him on seemingly every drop back. They will be going after Schweitzer early and often in this one, and it will be crucial that the former sixth-round pick is up to the task.
But like I said, this week two game is going to be totally different, and the unit that will need to be miles better is the defense. If not, Aaron Rodgers will have a field day to open up Mercedes-Benz Stadium. For three quarters, this improved Atlanta defense did what it should have against a Bears offense filled with question marks. However, when push came to shove, the Falcons reminded us all why no lead is safe with this team. They allowed Mike Glennon to go 70 yards back-to-back times, nearly allowing the Bears to steal a victory. Fortunately for the Falcons, the Bears are looking off the streets for people to catch passes, or they would be 0-1.
Aaron Rodgers does not have that problem. With a plethora of receivers and the most talented quarterback on the planet, the Falcons defense is going to have to be at their best for four quarters, much like they were in last year’s NFC Championship game. There are still places to attack this Packers team on both sides of the ball, and the Falcons have the talent to exploit them. The Atlanta offense should have an easier time penetrating a weaker Green Bay defense. The defensive line will have the opportunity to attack a Packers offensive line that was better last season. People are going to be looking at Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers in this matchup, as they should. The two quarterbacks have a combined three MVPs between them. But this is still a game that is decided in the trenches, and the Falcons have the talent to win the battle against the Packers once again in this area. If the Falcons can dominate in the trenches come Sunday, they should find themselves successfully protecting home turf on opening night in the new dome.