Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons 5 Key Match-Ups To Watch
Packers vs. Falcons: 5 Key Week 14 Match-Ups
Week 14 is upon us, and many teams in the NFL are vying for playoff positioning. It has been a long season full of suspense and great games all over the schedule. This trend will continue this week as teams try to improve their chances of making the playoffs, and this applies to the Green Bay Packers as they host the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon.
The Packers have lost four games and tied one with quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined, and they have dropped to third place in the NFC North division with a record of 5-6-1. Luckily for the Packers and their fans, there is still plenty of hope alive to make a late season push to the playoffs. With heavy schedules ahead for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, the Packers (if they win out) can put a lot of pressure on the two teams and anything is possible.
In order to get the playoff push started, the Packers must take care of their business first. This week, they take on a Falcons team that currently is tied for the league's second-worst record at 3-9. Both the Packers and Falcons will be without several key weapons on offense and will have to deal with wintery conditions when they take the field Sunday.
Both teams have been inconsistent this season. It was predicted by many early on this season that this match-up could be for a spot as the top NFC team. The game was originally scheduled to be played on NBC primetime, but because of the records it was flexed off the schedule and put to a 1 p.m. ET start.
Regardless of the time of kickoff or the record of the two teams, this game is still a big one. The Packers need to win their remaining four games if they want to have any hopes of making the playoffs, and it all starts this week against Atlanta. Here are the 5 key match-ups to watch for in this NFC battle.
5. Sam Shields vs. Harry Douglas
The first match-up to watch for in this weekend's game will pair up two speed demons for both teams in a battle between Packers cornerback Sam Shields and Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas.
Douglas was recorded running his 40 yard dash around 4.4 seconds which is quick for a receiver. He is able to get off the line of scrimmage and use that speed to get away from cornerbacks. However, the Packers have a guy in Shields who is even faster. Shields ran his 40 yard dash in 4.26 seconds, and he has proven to everyone that he has the ability to catch any receiver, even if he gets beat off the line.
Shields had a very tough match-up last week against Lions All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson. He tried to jam him on the line of scrimmage but struggled to keep him contained. He did, however, get his hands on a Matthew Stafford pass into the end zone which resulted in an interception and a touchback.
This week, Shields will have to try and contain Douglas. Last week against the Buffalo Bills, Douglas was caught up in several altercations but finished with six catches for 73 yards. So far this season, Douglas has 66 receptions for 906 yards and two touchdowns. He has been an explosive receiver who has become a threat for this offense while Julio Jones has been sidelined.
This match-up between Douglas and Shields will certainly be an entertaining one to watch, and if you want to see a battle between two young, quick and athletic players, watch No. 83 vs. No. 37 come Sunday afternoon.
4. Don Barclay vs. Osi Umenyiora
The next match-up will take place up front for the Packers offense as Don Barclay will have to try and take on defensive end Osi Umenyiora. It is a match-up that many Packers fans will keep their eyes on this week after the embarrassing performance the line had last Thursday against the Lions.
The Packers allowed seven sacks against the Lions and it seemed as though it was a bunch of men playing against a bunch of boys. If the Packers' line doesn’t improve this week the same may happen.
Of all battles up front this week, the one between Barclay and Umenyiora will be the one to watch. Barclay has struggled with injuries this season, and because of that his performance has dropped. In some instances he was taken out of games due to an injury and Marshall Newhouse had to replace him. This replacement has killed the Packers this season because Newhouse has been absolutely putrid trying to protect the quarterback. Barclay has to be on his A game this week and play all 60 minutes.
Unfortunately for Barclay he will be going up against a guy who has had great success in his career against the Packers. During his time with the New York Giants, Umenyiora always seemed to create havoc in the pocket for Packers' quarterbacks. His impact on the game is great. He does not have to sack the quarterback to have an impact. He gets his hands on balls and is a very good tackler which makes him a very tough match-up for any offensive lineman.
The Packers must be able to protect the quarterback this week and in order to do so, it all starts with the match-up between Barclay and Umenyiora.
3. AJ Hawk vs. Steven Jackson
In a battle between two of the most physical players on both rosters, the match-up between Packers linebacker AJ Hawk and Falcons running back Steven Jackson will certainly include a lot of loud hits and pads popping.
Hawk has been one of the best players on a mediocre defense for the Packers this season. He has totaled 103 tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble. It has been a standout year for the 8th year man from Ohio State, and his impact has been felt on the defense. He has stepped up and become a leader of the defense and has taken on the role of relaying the plays to the defense while on the field. I have been extremely impressed with Hawk's progression this season and feel he has done a fantastic job. He will have to do another fine job this week against a running back that has been one of the league's most physical for the past few seasons.
Jackson has been injury-prone this season, but when he has been on the field he has been productive. His best performance of the season was this past week against the Bills. Jackson looked to be back to 100 percent and seemed as though he got his legs back under him. He finished the game with 23 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns. These are the kind of numbers the Falcons wanted to see from Jackson every week when they got him in the offseason from the St. Louis Rams.
Jackson will look to build on his best performance this week against the Packers and a defense that has struggled to stop the run. If the Packers are going to slow down this offense and stop Jackson, it will start in the middle with Hawk.
2. Eddie Lacy vs. Falcons' Front 4
The No. 2 match-up that certainly will be impacted by the decision on Rodgers is going to be the battle between Packers running back Eddie Lacy and the Falcons' front four.
Lacy has struggled of late and has seen 8-9 man fronts with Rodgers sidelined. Opposing defenses are daring the Packers to throw the ball with Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien by making sure that Lacy does not beat them.
It is a tough stretch for the rookie, but if Rodgers does return it will only aid him. Regardless, Lacy has to continue to run hard and play at the top level he has all season.
The Falcons' defense has struggled against the run this year. They are 30th in the league against the run and have allowed an average of 135.4ypg on the ground. It will be interesting to see if the Falcons will stack the box against Lacy and try to make the Packers beat them through the air. If Rodgers returns, it may be hard for the Falcons to accomplish that game plan.
1. Tramon Williams vs. Roddy White
We have finally gotten to the top match-up for this week's game against the Packers and Falcons.
This match-up will take place yet again on the outside of the hash marks and will be an exciting battle between Packers cornerback Tramon Williams and Falcons Pro Bowl receiver Roddy White.
Williams struggled early on this season, but as of the last four weeks he has played fantastic football. He has accepted any match-up thrown his way and has responded. Over the last four weeks he has recorded 22 tackles, two interceptions and two pass deflections. It seems that he has finally gotten back to his old habits and is starting to become the shutdown cornerback that many Packers fans know he can be.
This week he will have another tough assignment against White. White has also had some issues this season with injuries which has led him having only one touchdown. However, just like Jackson, he had his best week of the season last week against the Bills. White finished with 10 catches for 143 yards. These are the numbers that Falcons fans have known and loved from White over the past few seasons and are why he will challenge Williams this week.
Crazy things have happened this season for both teams and there are several match-ups I left out that will have an impact on the game Sunday. The Packers need to put their best foot forward and try to keep their playoff hopes alive. There is no better place to do it than at Lambeau Field in front of the cheeseheads!