Packers get breather before up-and-down Falcons
Seventh in a 13-part series on the teams the Green Bay Packers will face in the 2016 regular season.
The Green Bay Packers will get an extended week to prepare for the Atlanta Falcons before traveling south a day before Halloween.
It’s a benefit of the NFL’s regular Thursday night schedule, and an important breather for a team with a Week 4 bye. The Packers will get 10 days between hosting the Bears and their game at the Falcons on Oct. 30 — time to rest and time for extra preparation.
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The Packers wouldn’t play the Falcons this fall if not for their loss to the Vikings in last season’s finale, which gave Minnesota the NFC North title. The Vikings will play the Carolina Panthers, champions of the NFC South, while the North runner-up Packers will travel to the South runner-up Falcons.
Here are three things to know about the Falcons.
» An even year for Matty Ice: In baseball, the San Francisco Giants have developed a reputation for winning the World Series in years ending with an even number. On a smaller scale, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is the NFL’s version of the Giants. Ryan has made his three Pro Bowl bids in each of the past even years. In that time, he has 88 touchdowns, 37 interceptions and a 32-16 record as a starter, including a pair of 13-3 seasons. In his past three odd years, Ryan has 76 touchdowns, 45 interceptions and a 13-26 record as a starter. It’s a weird statistical quirk, sure. It’s also worth keeping in mind this season. Because, you know, 2016 is an even year.
» Up off the Matt? In part because of Ryan’s inconsistent play, the Falcons have been all over the map in the past six seasons. Few teams plummet as fast as they did in 2013, following a 13-3 record and NFC championship game appearance with a 4-12 nosedive. They haven’t had a winning season since 2012, though each of the past two seasons have been an improvement — 6-10 in 2014, then 8-8 in 2015. It has been a curious fall from contention for a team that had three straight seasons with double-digit wins. Perhaps they are on the cusp of resurfacing, but just as the Falcons are expected to break through, they’ve shown a history of plummeting further.
» D is for Dan: On paper, Dan Quinn might be the perfect coach for these Falcons. They have an offense that should produce points. Their fall came mostly because of a dreadful defense. Quinn, the former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator, brought his Super Bowl-winning scheme to Atlanta, and the results were immediate. The Falcons improved to 14th in the NFL in scoring and 16th in total defense last season, up from 27th in scoring and last in total defense in 2014. They also improved to 18th against the pass after finishing last in 2014. It is similar to Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, who turned a dreadful defense into a division champion in two short seasons. Perhaps the Falcons will take that jump this fall.
Packers schedule glimpse
Oct. 30 at Atlanta, noon, Fox
Week before: vs. Bears, Oct. 20
Week after: vs. Colts, Nov. 6
On the horizon: at Titans, Nov. 13
Coach: Dan Quinn (8-8, second season)
2015 record: 8-8, second NFC South
Scoring offense: 21.2 points per game (21st in NFL)
Total offense: 374.4 yards per game (7th)
Scoring defense: 21.6 points allowed per game (14th)
Total defense: 347.6 yards allowed per game (16th)
Series: Packers lead 15-12 (2-1 postseason)
Last meeting: The Packers were dominant at Lambeau Field throughout the 2014 season, with the exception of one second half. On "Monday Night Football," the Packers held on for a 43-37 win against the Falcons on Dec. 8, 2014. They led 31-7 at halftime and appeared to be on their way to another home rout, but the Falcons outscored the Packers 30-12 in the second half to make the game competitive. Falcons receiver Julio Jones had 11 catches for 259 yards and a touchdown, but Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 24 of 36 passes for 327 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and Packers receiver Jordy Nelson had a big night with eight catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
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