Bad memories. That's what I get when I think of this team. I vividly remember watching in disgust as the Packers blew out the Falcons at home 48-21 on January 15th. I especially remember feeling my gut drop as Tramon Williams picked an ill-advised Ryan pass and took it the other way for a touchdown. With so much hype surrounding the Eagles, people often forget about Green Bay and how much they accomplished last season with some very injured ranks.
The defending Superbowl champs will be the team to beat in 2011, and the Falcons will get their shot to face with the Pack week five, at home on Sunday Night Football.
Record: Finished 10-6, Superbowl XLV Champions
Last Meeting: NFC Divisional Round, 2010 (Falcons won... on the inside)
Notable Additions: OT Derek Sherrod (draft pick), WR Randall Cobb (draft pick), RB Alex Green (draft pick)
Notable Losses: LB Nick Barnett, DT Cullen Jenkins, OG Daryn Colledge
With the Packers being one of those unfortunate teams over the new salary cap as the offseason began, they weren't very active at all during free agency. They did manage to keep a few important vets- AJ Hawk, James Jones, and John Kuhn to name a few- but their only new additions were through the draft.
Still, this team is very similar to the one that won a championship last year. Actually, they're more like a healthier version of the 2010 team. Barring any catastrophic injuries, this Packers team will be tough if not tougher than the one that stomped the Falcons in the playoffs.
For Atlanta, they only need to look to their 20-17 regular season win over Green Bay find the keys to success. Pressuring Aaron Rodgers, keeping him in the pocket, and maintaining ball control will all be huge in this one. Too many times I've seen Rodgers slip away from a would-be lineman, only to scramble downfield for a 20-yard gain.
The Falcons need consistent pressure to stop guys like Rodgers and Brees, and hopefully this will be one of those games where Ray Edwards can step up and make a few big plays. As for the offense, two talented Packers corners in Woodson and Williams may leave Harry Douglas as the go-to guy for Ryan. Judging by his preseason performance thus far, a big performance may not be out of the question.
Regardless of who makes plays, the Packers will be the fourth playoff-caliber team on the first five weeks of the schedule. If the Falcons can make it past Green Bay, the remaining games won't be quite as brutal as the first five. For Mike Smith and company, it will be a real test of what this 2011 team is capable of doing.