Shawn: I’ve said all year the Green Bay Packers would win this week’s game, and if anything, I believe even more strongly in that prediction now.
The Atlanta Falcons are 8-2, sure. Everyone seems to have forgotten that they beat the Saints after Garrett Hartley missed two easy field goals that would have won the game. Hartley makes either field goal, and the Falcons have the same record as the Packers and the Saints would be 8-2.
The Falcons are 18-1 at home under coach Mike Smith. That is wonderful, but that record does not include a victory over the Packers.
The Falcons’ running game has been underwhelming for the most part, this year. I expect it to have little success against the Packers’ defense. Fortunately for the Falcons, their passing attack led by Matt Ryan and Roddy White has carried their offense at times. With the level that Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, and Sam Shields are playing at, Ryan and White will find it very difficult to consistently make plays. White has caught 79 passes this season, the next highest reception total by a Falcons receiver is 20 by Mike Jenkins, (not counting TE Tony Gonzalez). Therefore, the Packers should be able to concentrate on White to limit him.
The Falcons play the kind of defense the Packers are well-acquainted with by now; namely, they are fairly stout against the run but rank 24th against the pass. That is not a formula for success against the Packers. In fact, when you consider the Saints weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders when they played earlier this year, it’s safe to say the Falcons haven’t yet faced the kind of multi-faceted passing attack that the Packers bring to the table. This is an offense that is built for playing in a controlled environment, and the Packers defense has the kind of speed that makes them even more dangerous in a dome.
In short, the Packers are better on offense, they are better on defense, and they are on a roll. The Falcons need a return to sloppy play by the Packers to win this game. I don’t see it. Most of us making predictions, even when picking the Packers, have failed to give the defense the kind of credit they now deserve. I will not repeat that error.
The Falcons’ offense is good enough to manage one touchdown and two field goals against Green Bay. That’s all.
Packers 27, Falcons 13
Steffen: Over the last few weeks, I’ve been picking against the Green Bay Packers. Good thing I’m not a gambler.
Superstitiously, I almost feel like I have to keep it going, since they prove me wrong every week. I totally buy into the Packers now. I really think they have what it takes to win the NFC North. The defense has been especially impressive during their four-game win streak.
The Falcons have an impressive 8-2 record. Quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Roddy White will test the dynamic cornerback duo of Green Bay, Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson.
The one chink in Atlanta’s armor is the their pass defensive, which is ranked 24th and plays right into the hands of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who played a nearly flawless game last week against the Vikings.
Talent wise, I think this should be a close game, with the edge going to Green Bay because of their superior defense.
However, since they’re playing in Atlanta, where Ryan is 18-1 AND since I’m slightly superstitious, I’m picking the Falcons.
A bump in the road for Green Bay as they chase the division crown.
Falcons 29, Packers 28
Sarah: Sunday’s game at Atlanta is shaping up to be the toughest matchup for the Green Bay Packers to date.
The Falcons boast the NFC’s best record at 8-2 and third-year quarterback Matt Ryan has an 18-1 home record dating back to 2008. The team’s offensive line is also one of the NFL’s best.
The key here will be whether Aaron Rodgers and his receiving corps can take advantage of Atlanta’s big weakness — a mediocre pass defense. The Falcons’ have allowed 18 passing touchdowns this year, ranking just 24th in pass defense.
Green Bay’s defense must also come up big. The team is tied with Chicago for first in scoring defense and has allowed just nine touchdown passes and four rushing touchdowns this season, while picking off 15, and features the league’s sack leader in Clay Matthews.
The Packers will need some easy points off turnovers to keep up with Atlanta’s offense and home field advantage, but I think they can come out on top.
Packers 21, Falcons 17