Packers vs. Falcons will be decided along the trenches

NFL: SEP 10 Panthers at Falcons

The Falcons and Packers play a similar brand of football.

Last week, Green Bay dominated their rivals in Chicago, beating them along the line of scrimmage. They made life very difficult for Justin Fields and the Bears offense while Aaron Jones and Jordan Love ran Matt LaFleur’s offense to a tee. It was utter domination.

Likewise, Atlanta beat their division rivals by multiple scores. Unlike their Week 2 opponents, the Falcons offense struggled a bit but similarly made life difficult for Bryce Young and the Panthers offense.

It was a much uglier win for Atlanta than Green Bay, but when you can win by two scores while converting 20% of third downs without much offensive production, that’s impressive.

The Falcons will have to improve upon a few things if they want to reach 2-0 this Sunday with the Packers coming to town. I have one area, in particular, that is going to be critical for whichever team wins — the line of scrimmage.

After hearing about how great Atlanta’s starting five was all offseason, the offensive line wasn’t stellar against the Panthers’ daunting front. They were once again very solid in the run game, but the passing game that left something to be desired.

Kaleb McGary looked suspect in pass protection, and even Chris Lindstrom got badly beaten a couple of times in pass sets. Granted, Derrick Brown and Brian Burns are two of the best players at their respective positions, but they’ll have similar beasts coming to town this week.

Green Bay’s front seven can go toe-to-toe with most in the NFL. Kenny Clark is arguably the best nose tackle in football; Devonte Wyatt had quite the coming out party against the Bears. Moreover, Rashaan Gary, Preston Smith, and Lukas Van Ness are versatile, athletic edge defenders who can affect the game in more ways than one. Quay Walker and De’Vondre Campbell also make a more than formidable linebacker duo.

Chris Lindstrom, Drew Dalman, and Matthew Bergeron will have their hands full with Kenny Clark and Devonte Wyatt. I’m more concerned with Kaleb McGary, though. Rashaan Gary and Preston Smith could make life very rough for Atlanta’s right tackle as he tries to protect Desmond Ridder.

Something the Falcons have to be ready for is the stunts across the line of scrimmage. Daire Carragher of Packer Report stated Green Bay used 28 stunts against Chicago and added that the Packers averaged just seven stunts per game in 2022. That’s something to keep an eye on.

Let’s flip to the Packers’ offensive line and the Falcons’ defensive line.

Green Bay’s starting five kept Jordan Love relatively clean, holding the Bears to only two hurries and five pressures, compared to the Packers who recorded four sacks, seven hurries, and 13 pressures.

The two tackles are as solid as any in pass sets. David Bakhtiari was his usual self; injuries are the only thing holding him back from an All-Pro performance in 2023. The surprise of Green Bay for me was Zach Tom, who won the starting right tackle position in the offseason. Once again, the Packers seemingly found a stud of an offensive lineman. He looked great last week.

Atlanta’s edge rushers are nothing to write home about. I wouldn’t expect much when rushing the passer against these two tackles, but Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree should be able to win in the run game, given their size advantage.

The guard duo left a bit to be desired. Elgton Jenkins surprisingly gave up a sack but is one of the best guards in football. Jon Runyan looked decent but is someone the Falcons should be able to take advantage of.

The weakest link of the group is Josh Myers, the Packers center. Look for Atlanta to exploit Runyan and Myers. The Packers are much better in pass protection than run blocking — the opposite of the Falcons.

The Falcons should focus on the interior, particularly disrupting the run and trying to push the pocket into Jordan Love’s lap. Grady Jarrett and David Onyemata should be able to dominate when defending the run, especially whoever draws Myers.

This is going to be a war in the trenches. The Packers faced a far inferior team last week, so they’ll have a big test in Week 2.

Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire


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