Green Bay Packers

Will the Banged Up Pack Pass Another Road Test?

Photo Credit: Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis.

The young Green Bay Packers passed their first test with flying colors last weekend at Soldier Field. Jordan Love looked every bit the part of a promising young quarterback. The defense displayed a pass rush with plenty of bite and a run defense that looked significantly better than what we saw last year.

Then there’s the caveat: It was against the Chicago Bears. Never mind that the Pack were underdogs in this game. Until proven otherwise, beating the Bears doesn’t tell you much about how good you are.

Enter the Atlanta Falcons, who appear to be a rising team. They spent a boatload of money to give their defense more bite. They also added a supremely gifted rookie running back in Bijan Robinson, who may be considered among the best in the league before the season ends. He’ll make life much easier for second-year starter Desmond Ridder, who’s limited in several ways despite his solid numbers against the woeful Carolina Panthers last week.

On paper, this game would appear to be a tossup. We’ve seen the line move throughout the week, with the Packers opening as small favorites. Then the line flipped, and now Atlanta has the slight edge. Much of that concerns the Pack’s injury list, which shows Aaron Jones, Christian Watson, and Quay Walker as questionable. David Bakhtiari has the same designation, but Matt LaFleur says that will likely be the case all season with him.

Walker may be the most important guy to have available for this matchup unless you have a ton of confidence in his backup, Isaiah McDuffie. Walker’s playmaking and athleticism would be most welcome against a team that would like to commit to the run like the Eagles did against the Vikings. Their three-headed attack of Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson is as good as there is in the league. The Pack’s run defense was promising last week. We may actually have something here if Devonte Wyatt, TJ Slaton, and Co. can contain the Falcons on their fast track.

One thing working in the Pack’s favor: Ridder may force a couple into second-year receiver Drake London. Much has been made that he only saw one target last week. They’ll look to feed him on Sunday, and Jaire or Rasul could have a surprise in store.

Offensively, it’s all about Jones and Watson’s availability – particularly Jones. The drop-off to AJ Dillon looked as vast as the Grand Canyon last week. The offense will revolve around Jones all season, and not having him would be huge. If he’s out, preseason phenom Emanuel Wilson will get a chance.

The team will again rely on the rookie pass-catchers, even if Watson is back in a limited capacity. Luke Musgrave and Jayden Reed got off to great starts last week, and they’ll have Love’s attention all afternoon. Veterans like Bud Dupree and Calais Campbell have given Atlanta’s pass rush some bite – we’ll see if the Pack’s highly graded pass protection holds up. I wonder if the team will be careful with Bakhtiari since they will play this game on turf. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rasheed Walker play a series or two.

If I knew Jones and Walker were playing and close to 100%, I’d feel good about the chances of Love outdueling Ridder. But I think about their uncertainty and the learning curve we may see with a young team. It’s not always easy for a young roster to back up a big, emotional road win against a rival with another road win against what I think is a team that can contend for a division title.

The Pack will fight hard, and it may be a back-and-forth affair. But I think the Dirty Birds come out on top.

Falcons 23

Packers 20

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Photo Credit: Samantha Madar/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wis.

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