The Falcons are being written off tonight against the Packers in Lambeau for a few reasons. Green Bay has been one of the most explosive offenses in football, all while being the most balanced. Aaron Rodgers is playing within the offense, on time, in rhythm, and looking like the perennial MVP he’s been in the past. But stranger things have happened, and Atlanta is capable of sneaking out of Green Bay with a win.
The Packers are going into tonight without their top two options at receiver — Davante Adams and Allen Lazard. Tight ends, Josiah Deguara and Mercedes Lewis are questionable, who both play vital roles in an offense that loves multiple tight end sets. Lewis is essentially an extra offensive lineman and has been one of the best run-blocking tight ends for the past decade. While Deguara was drafted this past year and plays the H-back role. He gives Lafleur the flexibility to put another receiving threat on the field without giving up a bigger-bodied blocker.
Lafleur’s offensive system will be put to the test without his top two receivers. The Falcons are missing Takk McKinley, Keanu Neal, and Ricardo Allen but are still capable of slowing down this offense, as long as they put an emphasis on stopping the initial running attack. The Lafleur system is predicated on establishing zone stretches and then calling a dozen other plays with the exact same formation and pre-snap motion. Once the run is successfully established, the defense will have to honor all play-action fakes, and Lafleur will scheme open receivers all day long. It will not matter who is at the cornerback position for the Falcons, if the offense works how it is supposed to, receivers will be running wide open. The Falcons defense must not let Rodgers and the offense get into a rhythm, which starts with stopping the run.
The Green Bay defense also has question marks. Christian Kirksey has worn the green dot, calling in the defensive plays, but was placed on the injured reserve last week. Za’Darius Smith, Kenny Clark, Jaire Alexander, and Rashan Gary are all questionable. Gary has had an impressive year two jump and is the second-best pass rusher on the team behind Za’Darius Smith. Missing both pass rushers and their top cornerback will give the offense that much more time to throw the ball. Kenny Clark is the best young nose tackle in the league and his absence will surely widen running lanes.
If all of these questionable players are in fact out tonight, the Atlanta offense will have a field day. The Packer’s defense without Kenny Clark is abysmal against the run. With Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley expected to play, Green Bay needs their top corner to strap it up. Alexander is one of the highest-graded corners in the league thus far, and it would be a tremendous test for the young star to match up against one of the game’s best in Julio. If Alexander cannot go, that means Kevin King will matchup against Julio. King is a big, press corner who is more comfortable covering deep routes rather than crosses, slants, and comebacks. Julio will likely eat King’s lunch.
It could be the makings of a perfect storm. The Falcons may not be 100% themselves, but they should be hungrier and healthier heading into Monday Night Football. Now, they just have to put it all together for four quarters.