What's the best thing about being 1-0? The opportunity to go 2-0; the last time the Atlanta Falcons started the season off 2-0 was way back in 2017 versus the Green Bay Packers in week 2. Atlanta would make the second round of the playoffs that year (but that doesn't mean anything...). Six years later, both the Packers and Falcons teams look entirely different; head coaches are different, franchise quarterbacks have both moved on, and both teams are trying to establish a new identity.
This week's matchup for the Falcons will be much more challenging than week one. The Packers bring a much more experienced offense and a defense that can make the quarterback very uncomfortable from the game's first snap. Jordan Love is now the signal-caller for the Packers' offense, and it looks like he'll have no trouble taking over that role after a respected week-one performance. Love completed 15 passes for 245 yards and threw for three touchdowns as he and the Packers' run game tore up the Chicago Bears' defense. Speaking of defense, the Packers got to Justin Fields four times and picked him off once. Ridder and Co. will have their hands full on Sunday. Let's dig in a little deeper into the week two matchup below!
Date: Sunday, September 17th, 2023
Start Time: 1pmET/10amPT
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
TV Info: FOX
Falcons will be wearing their red helmet throwback uniforms!
Key Players- Offense
Bijan Robinson, Falcons RB
After an impressive NFL debut, Robinson will look to build off of his performance to push Atlanta to 2-0. Robinson scored the first Falcons touchdown of the season on a bubble screen from Desmond Ridder. The Falcons star rookie would finish the game with 56 rushing yards and 27 receiving yards; he would catch all six of his targets. I decided to go with Robinson because I am curious about how the Packers will try and contain him and Tyler Allgeier after both had big weeks. So, the key here is if the Packers force Atlanta to throw the ball, I expect to see Robinson used even more in the passing game this week.
AJ Dillion, Packers RB
What, not Aaron Jones? Well, with Jones coming out of the game last week with a hamstring injury and not practicing this week, Jones is listed as "questionable" for Sunday. This would be a big break for Atlanta if Jones doesn't suit up on Sunday. Jones went off against Chicago last week, scoring two touchdowns with 127 total yards. Even if Jones does suit up Sunday, I would presume he would be on some sort of snap count, as hamstring injuries are usually taken seriously. So, that led me to Dillion being the Packer's "key player" of the week. Dillion saw the most carries out of the Packers RBs with 13 and also saw three targets from Love, catching two. If Jones is out, Dillion isn't someone to take lightly; he is versatile and has been a big piece in the Packers' offense in recent years.
Key Players- Defense
Jessie Bates lll, Falcons S
It would sit very wrong with me if I didn't pick the NFC defensive player of the week for the Falcon's defensive "key player." Bates had his first two-interception game of his career, forced a fumble, and had ten tackles in his Falcons debut. In just one week, the newly acquired safety has already impacted the new Falcon's defense. Bates was all over the field in week one, taking away throwing lanes over the middle from Bryce Young and disrupting the run game.
Jaire Alexander, Packers CB
So I'm not trying to jink anything, but Ridder has yet to throw an interception in his five NFL games. That streak will end at some point, and this guy stated above could be the first to pick off the Falcon's QB. Alexander has been one of the better defensive backs in the league over the past few years, making two Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams, and picking off five passes a year ago. The Atlanta offense will have their hands full on Sunday, especially if they want to give Drake London and Kyle Pitts more targets.
Points Spread: GB +1.5 (-110) | ATL -1.5 (-110)
Moneyline: GB (+110) | ATL (-130)
Over/Under: O 40.5 (-110) | U 40.5 (-110)
Lines via FanDuel as of Friday, September 15th
As stated above, this will be Atlanta's first big test of the season when Green Bay comes down to Georiga. Say what you want about the Packers: they are still a very well-coached team with Matt Lafleur at the helm, Jordan Love is a promising "QB of the future," and the RB duo in Jones and Dillion is easily top-five in the league. If Atlanta's offense comes out like they did in the first half against Carolina, it'll be hard for them to keep up with a Packers offense "that has the whole package," said Falcons DC Ryan Nielsen in a press conference at the beginning of the week. The Falcons defense is a little banged up going into Sunday. Starting LB Troy Anderson is out Sunday(concussion); Anderson had ten total tackles and half of a sack against the Panthers. Jeff Okudah is listed as "questionable" for Sunday. Okudah missed last week's game with a foot injury that has kept him out for the past five months. However, Okudah returned to practice on Wednesday and had this to say about a possible return versus the Packers, "Honestly, when we spoke to the training staff at the beginning of the week, the plan was not to necessarily think about Sunday, just take it one day at a time. If we get to Sunday, we get to Sunday. If we don't, we don't. We just didn't want to get too far ahead of ourselves." Okudah would be an excellent addition to the Falcon's secondary, joining A.J. Terrell, who also had a nice week one. When in single-coverage, Terrell allowed zero catches on four targets on Sunday. This Falcon's defense will be tested Sunday, but it could be a massive statement if they can slow down Love and the Packer's offense.
Offensively, the Falcons will likely have their "joker" back in Cordarrelle Patterson on Sunday. After a solid performance from Allgeier and Robinson, imagine adding Patterson to the mix, and not just at the RB position, but at the WR position. A week ago, the Packers defense gave up 311 total yards to the Bears offense (189 passing and 122 rushing); Atlanta last week only needed 221 total yards to get the job done while scoring 24 points. If Green Bay gives up another 122 rushing yards to Allgeier, Robinson, and possibly Patterson, all while having to worry about the passing game that includes, but is not limited to, London, Pitts, Patterson(possibly), and Robinson. I wouldn't want to be in Green Bay's team meeting come Monday. Now, yes, London only had one target on Sunday, and Pitts only had two catches, but Arthur Smith didn't have to keep calling their number to win the game, nor did Ridder have to throw it their way as Carolina could not stop ATL's running game in the second half. Expect a similar game plan against Green Bay on Sunday: run the ball, mix in the short passes, and wait till the deep shot opens up. I would also expect the Falcon's RBs to have over 20 combined carries in the game.
This game is going to be a lot closer than what last Sunday was for Atlanta. This game has more of an offensive shootout type of feel, with a game-ending field goal. With the two offenses, we'll see on the field Sunday, whichever one scores first could have the upper hand. So, that brings me to my final score prediction of...
Score Prediction: ATL-30, GB-27
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)