How the Atlanta Falcons can beat the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau


Let’s get real, nobody honestly expects the Atlanta Falcons to go into Green Bay and best the Packers on Monday Night Football this week. Our pals in Las Vegas have the Falcons as a 12.5-point underdog in the game at this point, and the odds to win outright for the Falcons are running at about 6-1. Only Carolina going into New Orleans has similar lopsided spread numbers this week, but even they fall short of the Falcons. In short, people that are betting believe that the Falcons have almost no shot at winning this game.

But nothing in the NFL is that easy. Allow me to tell you how they could all look very silly. Because the way the Falcons are playing right now? They can absolutely win this game. Most of you will look at me like I’ve lost my mind, and perhaps I have. I could be completely wrong about this Falcons team, and they could get demolished like everyone expects. But maybe there’s more to it than that. Let’s just take a look at what this Green Bay team really does.

  • Green Bay’s defense isn’t exactly amazing – They are middle of the road in points per game at 22.2, and they are 29th in the league in rushing defense. Where the Packers excel is turnover margin, and it’s a huge reason they’ve won so many games. The Packers are number one in the NFL in turnover margin with a +15. What people don’t realize is that Atlanta is +6, even in this “terrible” year. Green Bay’s defense is also giving up 43% in 3rd down conversions, which is bottom third of the NFL. The key point here is that if you don’t give Green Bay help with turnovers, and you can commit to running the ball with a few explosive passing plays? They have a hard time getting you off the field. The Falcons can do that by converting some 3rd downs and controlling the clock.
  • The Falcons are much better now than before the bye week – Nobody wants to discuss the Cleveland game, but if you look at the last four games the Falcons have played, they’ve won three of them. Are Tampa, Carolina, and Arizona stalwart opponents? Absolutely not. But that doesn’t really matter in the NFL in terms of production and momentum. Remove the Tampa blowout from the early season, and the Falcons were averaging 19.4 points per game before the bye. In their last four games, the Atlanta Falcons are averaging close to 25 points a game. The rushing offense is also averaging over 100 yards a game in those four games. In fact, the one time the Falcons lost, it was because they couldn’t rush the ball against Cleveland. In that game, they only had 23 attempts for 63 yards. In their wins, they had 5-10 more rushing attempts. They need to run against Green Bay to work over a bad defense, and to burn clock so Aaron Rodgers stays cold on the sidelines.
  • Aaron Rodgers hasn’t won on Monday Night since 2011 – The prior two years of Monday Night Football games for Aaron have been a disaster. In 2012, Rodgers played Seattle in Seattle, and lost the game that everyone will remember as the disputed Golden Tate touchdown in the end zone that brought back the real NFL referees. In 2013, Rodgers played Chicago in Lambeau, heavily favored with a 5-2 record. Rodgers was immediately sacked and injured for the rest of the game, as the Bears went on to win. Basically, Rodgers has had some weirdly bad luck on Mondays for a while now. Call it a freaky coincidence. Call it an anomaly. Perhaps it’s something about Monday Night. Take that for what you will.
  • The Falcons defense is gelling into something that’s not horrific – Giving up 19.5 points a game since the bye week, Mike Nolan and Atlanta’s defense still aren’t likely to produce any QB pressure on Rodgers, but they are also less likely to give up the horrific explosive plays that were killing the team earlier in the season. Even in the Cleveland game where things all went wrong, the Falcons defense had three interceptions. They give up a ton of yards, but they’ve also managed to shore up the bleed-out of points. Can Rodgers destroy this team through the air? Maybe, but he’ll have to do it against a secondary that’s starting to believe they can compete with anybody.
  • This game falls into the classic trap game mentality – The Packers have played two really close wins against Minnesota and New England over the last two weeks. Two weeks before that, they were blowing out opponents by 30+. They’ve been used to winning, even though they aren’t scoring as much, and here comes a terrible Falcons team that nobody cares about in the worst division in the NFL. You can try to get a team up for this game as much as you want, but it’s going to be nighttime, cold as all get out, and the Packers are sure they are better than the Falcons. Because they are better than the Falcons. But in the NFL, you can’t just roll your helmet out on the field and expect a desperate team who is still in the playoff hunt to play dead. That is how upsets happen.

Basically, if the Atlanta Falcons can play like they don’t care about the records, find Julio Jones with some deep balls, and run the rock at a bad Green Bay defense? They will score points. Can they score enough to win the game? That will depend on how the defense responds. Personally, I think this game will be a lot closer than people are comfortable with, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Falcons are leading at the half. What’s even more important is that I think Mike Smith realizes that if he can win this game, it just might save his job. After all, a win in Green Bay is a signature win on this season, and it opens the door for the Falcons to finish at 8-8 or better with a playoff berth. That would be the kind of epic turnaround finish that keeps coaches employed.

What I want to see from the Atlanta Falcons in this game is to play like they have nothing to lose, because they honestly have nothing to lose. If they go out there and hit Green Bay hard and fast? You could honestly see Atlanta emerging with a victory. And you could honestly see the perception of this team change completely. Either way, this is probably the most pivotal game of the season for this team before they head to New Orleans. Rise up!