The Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons both have a chance to start the season 2-0 when the two 1-0 teams meet Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The two teams haven’t met since 2020. Needless to say, a lot has changed for both teams over the last few seasons.
Packers Wire sat down with managing editor Matt Urben of Falcons Wire to help preview the Week 2 showdown.
Urben also helped recap the Falcons’ Week 1 performance here:
How did QB Desmond Ridder play in his season debut?
Falcons Wire: Ridder was shaky at the start of Week 1, but he did just enough to help the Falcons get the win. The second-year QB completed 15 of 18 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. He was efficient, however, most of his attempts were right around the line of scrimmage. As defenses adjust to take away the run, Ridder is going to have to step up and take more downfield shots to Drake London and Kyle Pitts.
Two things: Can the Falcons protect the QB, and can they pressure the opposing QB?
Falcons Wire: The Falcons’ pass protection was not great in the season opener, allowing four sacks and causing Ridder to rush his reads to some extent. Atlanta has a really talented offensive line, but with a rookie left guard and a right tackle who tends to struggle in pass protection, there are definitely a few weak spots.
As for getting pressure, the defense is making progress under new defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen. While the Falcons finished with just two sacks, they forced a number of errant throws from Panthers rookie Bryce Young in Week 1. Defensive linemen David Onyemata and Grady Jarrett are a fierce interior duo that should only get better as the season goes on.
How did first-round pick Bijan Robinson look in Week 1?
Falcons Wire: Robinson lived up to hype in his NFL debut. He scored the game’s first touchdown on a beautiful 11-yard catch and run. Overall, Robinson rushed for 56 yards on 10 carries and led the team with six catches for 27 receiving yards. Tyler Allgeier still led the team in both rush attempts and rushing yards, but there’s plenty of carries to go around in Arthur Smith’s offense.
Is newcomer Jessie Bates capable of taking the Falcons defense to the next level?
Falcons Wire: While Bates can’t do it all by himself, it’s clear his presence elevates this entire defensive unit. If Jeff Okudah can come back healthy, Atlanta’s secondary will likely be the strength of the team in 2023. Bates forced three turnovers against the Panthers (two interceptions and one forced fumble), which earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week. The defense desperately needed an impact player and Bates appears to be just that after one game.
The Falcons win if...? The Packers win if...?
Falcons Wire: The Falcons win if they keep the chains moving and avoid getting down by double digits. This will allow them to keep running the ball and therefore, open the door for play-action opportunities against the Packers secondary. Atlanta’s game plan is basically to run the ball and play good defense.
The Packers win if they get off to a quick start and avoid turning the ball over. Last week, Bryce Young’s turnovers turned what was a close game into an easy win for Atlanta. QB Jordan Love needs to stay patient and not force the ball into coverage or else Bates and Co. will make him pay.