The Green Bay Packers look to build on their season opening win in Chicago when they head south to take on the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams enter the game with a 1-0 record. Both teams are also viewed as potential surprise teams in the wide-open NFC.  This is an important matchup for the Packers.

The Packers lead the all-time series between these two teams 17-14-0 in the regular season. The series started in 1966 when the Falcons entered the league. The Packers have won the last two meetings between the teams. The Packers and Falcons have split their four playoff meetings with the last coming in the 2016 NFC Championship Game.

Here is a look at six key factors that will determine who wins Sunday’s game in Atlanta:

Packers Key Matchup Number One: The Packers Must Contain the Falcons Running Game

The Falcons offense is built around establishing a running game and they have some effective weapons to get that job done.

Second-year man Tyler Allgeier gained more than a thousand yards as a rookie last year and ran for 75 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener last week.

He is complimented by first-round pick Bijan Robinson who added 56 yards on 10 carries in his NFL debut. Robinson has great speed and is a receiving threat out of the backfield. He caught six passes for 27 yards and a touchdown last week.

The Packers defense did a good job of shutting down the Bears running game in the season opener. The defensive line got good penetration at the line of scrimmage to disrupt running plays. They will need to do that again on Sunday in Atlanta.

Quay Walker returned to practice on Thursday after being in concussion protocol. He scored a touchdown on a pick six against Chicago. Walker’s speed would be a big asset at slowing down the Atlanta rushing attack especially if they try to run wide. Isaiah McDuffie would take his place if Walker is unable to go.

Key Matchup Number Two: Get Pressure on Desmond Ridder

Desmond Ridder is in his first full year as a starter after starting four games last year as a rookie. The former University of Cincinnati star was extremely efficient in the season opener, completing 15-of-18 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

The Atlanta offense was conservative and most of Ridder’s throws were screen passes or short passes. The passing game was designed to build Ridder’s confidence and keep the chains moving.

The Packers did an excellent job of getting pressure on Justin Fields in Week 1. The Packers had multiple defensive players who were effective at rushing the passer with Rashan Gary, Devonte Wyatt, Lukas Van Ness, Karl Brooks and Preston Smith all excelling.

The Falcons offensive line is considered better than the Bears unit, but they did allow four sacks last week against Carolina.

Getting pressure on Ridder could force him into mistakes and would prevent the Falcons from throwing downfield. This would force them to go on long, efficient drives to score, which would also put more pressure on the inexperienced starting quarterback.

Packers Key Matchup Number Three: Protect Jordan Love

The Atlanta pass rush recorded two sacks and eight quarterback hits against the Panthers. Meanwhile, the Packers offensive line allowed only one sack against the Bears. Jordan Love had plenty of time to look for second and third options for most of the game.

Keeping Lorenzo Carter, Grady Jarrett and Troy Andersen and company away from Love will be the key to keeping the Packers passing game clicking. The Falcons play a 4-3 defense which the Packers also saw last week in Chicago.

Packers tackles David Bakhtiari and Zach Tom played extremely well last week and did a great job of protecting Love. If they keep it up, the Packers starter has shown himself to be capable of finding receivers downfield to keep the chains moving.

Key Matchup Number Four: Don’t Get Away from the Running Game

The Packers offense works best when they have a good balance of running and passing. Unfortunately, head coach Matt LaFleur sometimes gets away from the running game, like he did in the second quarter against the Bears. The offense stalled until the final minute when the Packers kicked a field goal. At the half, LaFleur admitted that had to change and it did in the third quarter.

The running game also works best when Aaron Jones gets the football. Jones suffered a hamstring injury last week and left the game early. He did not practice either Wednesday or Thursday this week and his availability for Sunday’s game is still uncertain.

A.J. Dillon struggled last week against the Bears, gaining only 19 yards on 13 carries. If Jones is limited or unable to go, Dillon will have a great opportunity to show he can be a number one back. Emanuel Wilson may be active behind Dillon if Jones is unable to play.

Last week, Carolina gained 154 yards on the ground against the Falcons. The Packers hope to find similar success on the ground on Sunday. Better run blocking from center Josh Myers would help the Pack run between the tackles, which remains Dillon’s strength.

Packers Key Matchup Number Five: Win the Turnover Battle

The Packers forced two turnovers against the Bears last week and didn’t turn the ball over themselves. The second turnover was a pick six by Walker that put the Packers ahead 38-14 and all but clinched the game for the Pack.

The Falcons intercepted two passes and recovered one fumble last week against Carolina to be a plus-three.

The Packers need to at least be even in the turnover battle to have a good chance to win this football game. Creating a short field could make a big difference in what could be a tight, low-scoring game.

Key Matchup Number Six: Contain Kyle Pitts

Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts creates some matchup problems for the Packers. At 6’6” and 246 pounds, Pitts can stretch the field for Atlanta. Even if he isn’t catching passes himself, Pitts can create space for his teammates to get open because opposing defenses need to account for him.

The Packers have long struggled to cover opposing tight ends in recent years and have a weakness at safety. Could linebackers De’Vondre Campbell or Walker cover Pitts or will it be Darnell Savage or Rudy Ford asked to get that job done.

The Packers need to prevent Pitts from making splash plays which change the momentum of the game. Last week, the Florida alum had only two catches but one of them went for 34 yards and set up Atlanta’s final score of the game.


The Packers face their second straight road game to open the season. The Falcons are considered a team who could surprise and have a breakout season in the NFC.

This will be a tougher test for the Packers than the Bears were as there is more talent on this roster.

The defense will be the difference in this game with the Packers unit finding a way to step up and limit the Atlanta offense. Love is also further along in his development as an NFL quarterback than Ridder.


Packers 20, Falcons 16



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