Ahead of an important Monday night matchup between the Atlanta Falcons (0-3) and the Green Bay Packers (3-0), AtlantaFalcons.com writers Matt Tabeek, Kelsey Conway and Will McFadden discuss some of the game's key storylines.
Will Calvin Ridley have a fourth 100-yard receiving day?
Kelsey Conway: I don't think Ridley will have the same type of production and that's only because I think it will be Julio Jones who will have the big day in Green Bay. Green Bay's cornerback duo of Jaire Alexander and Kevin King are playing well and I think they'll be focused on Ridley based off what he's done so far this year.
Will McFadden: My thoughts are pretty aligned with Kelsey here. I think it will be Jaire Alexander who matches up with Ridley for much of the game, and that should be a phenomenal matchup to watch. With Julio Jones getting an extra week of rest, I think he'll once again take his place as Atlanta's leading receiver. Does that mean there isn't enough room for both players to reach 100 yards? No. I think Ridley will have a couple of explosive plays and get over that 100-yard mark tonight in a game I anticipate turning into a shootout.
Matt Tabeek: Since I'm on the record for predicting a high-scoring affair Monday night in Lambeau Field, I'm going to say yes, of course I think Calvin Ridley will have another 100-yard receiving day. Julio Jones is expected to play, and Ridley should be the primary beneficiary.
Will the Falcons be able to generate pressure to affect Aaron Rodgers?
Conway: I don't feel good about this without Takk McKinley. I sure hope it happens because that's how the Falcons have had success against Aaron Rodgers in the past, but I think it will come down to Dante Fowler tonight. He needs to have a big day.
McFadden: No. The Green Bay Packers have an incredible offensive line, led by All-Pro David Bakhtiari. They are currently tied with the Kansas City Chiefs as the team allowing the least sacks in the league, and Aaron Rodgers has only been sacked twice through three games. I think the Falcons have improved the amount of pressure they've been able to get on opposing quarterbacks this season, but Rodgers is not only incredibly smart and decisive, but he's got more than enough athleticism to get away from pressure. This won't be easy.
Tabeek: Put it this way: If the Falcons can't generate any pressure, they'll be in for a very long night. If the Falcons can't sack Aaron Rodgers, they must find a way to hit Rodgers, affect his throws by flushing him out of the pocket or get him to hold the ball longer with solid coverage. Now, we all know Rodgers is one of the best in the league when throwing on the run, but it's better than letting him sit back there and pick the Falcons secondary apart. Dante Fowler, Grady Jarrett and Marlon Davidson are going to have to show up in a big way tonight.
Which side of the ball will be the most important for Atlanta in this game – offense or defense?
Conway: Can we pick both? But I think Atlanta's defense, they need to force a few turnovers to keep giving the ball back to the offense. I think Atlanta's offense will do its part, I'm looking at the defense to step up tonight.
McFadden: If Atlanta's offense had made one more big play against the Bears, I don't think the Falcons would be sitting at 0-3 right now. Against the highest-scoring offense in the league, the onus is on the Falcons' offense to keep pace. The offense is Atlanta's best unit, and this is a game where I wouldn't be surprised to see the Falcons unleash everything they have on that side of the ball in an attempt to get their first win.
Tabeek: Um, the Falcons are going to have to play a near-perfect game in all three phases – offense, defense and special teams – in order to come out of Lambeau Field with a win tonight. The Falcons have beaten the Packers in three of the last four meetings and averaged 37 points in those three wins. But the Packers have dropped 35-plus points in each of their first three games this season. Atlanta will need big nights from both sides of the ball. And if it's close, special teams play will be a factor as well.