Sunday, December 08, 2013

Week 14: Packers vs. Falcons Preview and Prediction

At the start of this current NFL season, the Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons game from Lambeau Field was scheduled to be a Sunday evening primetime TV extravaganza. A funny thing happened on the way to this game...

Both the Packers and the Falcons were devastated by injuries. Two teams expected to compete not only for the playoffs but for a possible NFC Super Bowl slot fell off the cliff, so to speak. You can have a talented team but if that talent isn't on the field, what difference does it make? Well, a lot to the TV schedulers, apparently, because this game was "flexed" from the original Sunday evening slot to a noon Central Time start, with limited TV coverage. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

What do we expect?
The Packers are sitting at 5-6-1 and the Falcons are at 3-9. Atlanta is obviously out of any playoff talk. But believe it or not, the Packers still are hanging on by a mathematical thread to the hopes of at least being in the wild card conversation. It's a long shot, to say the least. Possible? Yes. Probable? No.

Photo by Matt Becker,

Not unless there is a bit of a miracle at Lambeau today. With QB Aaron Rodgers still not cleared for play, Matt Flynn gets his second start. His first in Detroit on Thanksgiving Day was, shall we say, less than stellar. When he wasn't under pressure or getting sacked courtesy of a sieve-like makeshift offensive line, his passes had all the zip of a limp spaghetti noodle (is that a mixed metaphor?). He was underwhelming. The fact that the offensive line was unable to open any holes for running back Eddie Lacy put everything on the passing game...which was obviously not a good scenario.

Today, the offensive line has a chance to create some running room against the Falcons. But whether starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith is able to play or not, and if so for how long, will have a big impact on how well that scenario plays out. The Packers must somehow generate the threat of a running game in order to take pressure off Flynn. In temperatures likely to be below 20 degrees, and with a 30 percent chance of snow during the game, the passing game is not going to be much of a weapon. To win today, the Packers need a running game.

The Packers also need defensive takeaways and a score. They got both last game in Detroit (four turnovers and a defensive TD) but the lack of any type of tackling skills, pressure on the quarterback, and no offense made all that moot.

The Prediction
We could take a more in-depth look at the players, the schemes, etc. But why bother? You can find all that elsewhere.

The bottom line for the Packers today is they MUST win this game to have any place in the conversation about a possible wild card slot down the road, when perhaps Rodgers is able to get back behind center (although as yours truly has posted several times, the feeling here is it would be better to shut Rodgers down for the season and give Scott Tolzien the starter's reps; he's got a much stronger arm than Flynn and would be a better long-term fit at back-up than Flynn who clearly has nothing left in his arm at this point). Lose today and I really think the Packers will shelve Rodgers for the rest of the season and let him heal that fractured collarbone...which is obviously already taking longer to heal than he and the team had hoped. There is no sense in exposing your franchise quarterback to further injury with nothing left to play for.

Anyway...back to the prediction...

The Packers are favored between 3 to 3-1/2 points depending upon who you are looking at. The Falcons have their very good starting QB, Matt Ryan, a veteran RB in Steven Jackson and veteran TE in Tony Gonzalez. Those are significant offensive weapons against a Packers defense that has shown nothing in the last five games which would give you confidence of them stopping even a 3-9 team. Compare that to the Packers offense with likely a wounded and or makeshift offensive line and a weak backup QB, and this game looks scary. Even a good portion of local pundits are picking the Falcons.

Given the trend this Packers team has been on, without any indication they are in a position to pull out of their nosedive, I have to say that in my best hopes I'd actually be rooting for another tie game in overtime. But that's not going to happen. There will be a winner. And barring that miracle in Lambeau I mentioned earlier, I just have a feeling the winner will not be our beloved Packers.

I'm regretfully have to call this one in the Falcons favor. I'm calling it 17-13 Falcons over the Packers.

With that said, I hope I'm wrong.

And...Go Pack Go!!!