In this week’s installment of “Know Your Packers Enemy,” I talked with Dave Choate of the widely respected Falcons blog, TheFalcoholic.com, to talk Packers-Falcons. He was referred to me by AtlantaFalcons.com writer Daniel Cox, who turned down the request in fear of sounding too biased. Both Dave (@TheFalcoholic) and Daniel (@FalconsDCox) are excellent follows for Falcons news.
Enough of the intro’s, let’s get to the Packers-Falcons talk.
ZACH KRUSE: Expectations were (and still should be) high as ever in Atlanta heading into the season, especially with such names as Peter King picking the Falcons to win Super Bowl XLVI in SI’s NFL preview. Packers fans know all about those kind of expectations, as last season Green Bay was the trendy pick to win it all. The Falcons haven’t exactly lived up to those high expectations yet in 2011, but remember, the Packers were just 3-3 after six games last season. Is there any sense of panic or lower feelings for this season being 2-2?
DAVE CHOATE: It’s happening quickly. There are many, many fans who have abandoned the Falcons playoff wagon entirely, leaving it a torched shell. Others barely think the Falcons will get a winning season at this point. That’s balanced out by a number of fans who think it’s all overblown. Personally, I haven’t wavered from my 11-5 prediction, and don’t plan to do so even if the Falcons lose to the Packers. It’s just too early.
ZK: Both Matt Ryan and Mike Smith have stated that Sunday night’s game has nothing to do with revenge. Are you on that same page? Is this just another Week 5 game, or does this one carry any added importance?
DC: I think it only carries added importance because the Packers are 4-0 and one of the best teams in the NFC. Every team should want to prove they can beat a team like that.
ZK: Let’s talk about Michael Turner. Everyone always talks about Ryan and Roddy White, but Turner, in my opinion, is the engine that makes this offense go. And wouldn’t you know it, the Falcons are 2-0 when Turner carries the ball 20 times or more this season. What does he mean in a more specific way to the offense, and has there been any drop off in the running game that you’ve seen this season after losing Harvey Dahl to the Rams?
DC: The running game is fading. The Falcons are 2-0 when Turner runs 20 or more times, yes, but he was dismal in the Seattle Seahawks game, where he had less than 80 yards on 26 carries. Part of that is due to the abysmal play of the offensive line, which hasn’t done Turner any favors up to this point. I think the passing game is going to blossom into the team’s primary focus. Turner will always be a big part of the offense, but with the line the way it is and Turner getting older, they can’t afford to lean on him every game.
ZK: It’s probably a sore spot to talk about, but Aaron Rodgers torched essentially this same secondary last season in the playoffs. From what I’ve seen from the Falcons in 2011, that unit still looks like a major question mark. Is this an area you feel comfortable with heading into this week? What do the Falcons need to do defensively to take some of the pressure of the secondary?
DC: The Falcons need a ton of pressure up front, and they need their linebackers to shut down the flats so Rodgers is forced to make some risky throws or eat some turf. The big upgrade, as far as I’m concerned, is putting Kelvin Hayden at the nickel. Hayden’s no one’s idea of an elite corner, but he’s tough and smart and should make up reasonably well against Jordy Nelson. As well as anybody matches up against Nelson, anyways.
ZK: The Falcons obviously traded a lot of draft capital to attain receiver Julio Jones in April. On film, it looked like he needed a game or two to get his feet under him. Jones now has back-to-back 100-yard games and he’s looking like the kind of dynamic playmaker the Falcons were hoping for when they made the deal. What’s your early impressions of him, and how can the Falcons use him on Sunday to continue the defensive problems the Packers have had to start the 2011 season?
DC: He’s been fantastic these last couple of games, and I really think Jones has an amazing future ahead of him. That said, he’s still a rookie receiver, and he’ll have a tough matchup whether he goes against Charles Woodson or Tramon Williams. The key for the Falcons is to beat the Packers to death underneath early and open things up for Jones downfield later. He’s so fast, so tall and so athletic that he should win almost every jump ball that comes his way. The key is to loosen the coverage ever so slightly so that throw is possible in the first place.
ZK: I’m not sure if you’re in the prediction business, Dave, but what’s your best guess on a score for Sunday night from a Falcons perspective? Best and worst case scenarios?
DC: I’m going with 35-27 Packers. I believe in my football team, but the Packers are just too tough and the Falcons aren’t playing particularly great football right now. Best case scenario, the Falcons flip that score.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2