One of my favorite all-time albums was recorded by George Harrison when he put out All Things Must Pass in 1970.
That album title might also describe how the Sunday afternoon game between the 4-2 Green Bay Packers and the 4-3 Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome will be played.
I know I expect to see the football in the air quite often. Las Vegas sees the same thing. Sportsbook.com has the over/under at 53, which is tops in the NFL this week. I’m definitely leaning towards the over.
There are many reasons why.
For one thing, the Falcons have the No. 1 offense in the NFL, as they have averaged just over 433 yards per game. A lot of that yardage has come through the air, as Atlanta is second in the league in passing offense, as the Dirty Birds, led by Matt Ryan, have thrown for 319 yards per game.
Ryan is having a NFL MVP season individually, as he has thrown 16 touchdown passes versus four interceptions for a NFL-leading 2,348 yards. That adds up to a 113.6 passer rating.
The biggest recipient of Ryan’s throws is wide receiver Julio Jones. No. 11 is having a monster year in 2016. Jones leads the NFL with 830 receiving yards, which averages out to a whopping 20.8 yards per reception.
Jones has 40 catches and four touchdowns, plus has five receptions of over 40 yards already this season.
This does not bode well for a Green Bay secondary which will be without their top three cornerbacks on Sunday. Somehow, defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to figure out a way to try and keep Jones from having a big game.
That’s easier said than done. The last time the Falcons and Packers met was in 2014 at Lambeau Field, when Green Bay won 43-37. Jones had 11 receptions for 259 yards and a touchdown in that game.
I expect the Packers to double-up on Jones on just about every play. That still might not work, as that strategy is used by every defense in the NFL when they go up against the Falcons with very little success.
Also, Ryan generally plays well when he matches up against the Packers. In five regular season games when he was 2-3 versus the Pack, No. 2 has thrown 10 touchdown passes versus five picks for 1,139 yards. That adds up to a 92. 7 passer rating.
Ryan did not fare as well in a 2010 NFC Divisional Playoff game versus the Packers at the Georgia Dome, when the Packers prevailed 48-21. Matty Ice threw for only 186 yards in that game and threw one touchdown pass versus two interceptions (including a pick-six). That added up to a passer rating of 69.0.
On the other side of the ball, after struggling most of the year in the overall passing game, the aerial offense of the Packers seems to be back on track. Unlike the quick strike capability of the Falcons however, the Packers have been utilizing a dink and dunk type of passing game.
It’s almost an old school west coast offense approach in the passing game, plus the strategy eats up a lot of clock when it’s efficient.
Before the Packers played the Chicago Bears a week ago Thursday night, many skeptics were questioning the play of quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Packers.
But in that game, due to the fact that both Eddie Lacy (ankle-IR) and James Starks (knee) would not be able to play at running back, the Packers leaned heavily on their passing game.
Rodgers attempted 56 passes and completed 39 for 326 yards. No. 12 also threw three touchdown passes without throwing a pick. The passer rating for Rodgers in that game was 102.2.
For the season, Rodgers has similar statistics to Ryan, except for a big difference in yards passing. No. 12 has thrown 13 touchdown passes versus four interceptions for 1,496 yards. That adds up to a passer rating of 91. 7.
Rodgers always plays well against the Falcons. In four regular season games against Atlanta, where he is 2-2, Rodgers has thrown nine touchdown passes versus only one pick for 1,380 yards. That adds up to a 116.0 passer rating.
Plus in that 2010 NFC Divisional Playoff game at the Georgia Dome, Rodgers had probably the best game of his career against the Falcons. Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards. No. 12 threw three touchdown passes without a pick, plus scored a rushing touchdown as well.
No. 12’s passer rating in that game was a whopping 136.8.
Against da Bears, Rodgers had three receivers (Randall Cobb, Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery) catch at least 10 passes in that game. It was shocking to many that Jordy Nelson was not part of that group.
No. 87 historically plays well against Atlanta, as he has 21 receptions and three touchdowns in five regular season games. In the postseason game against the Dirty Birds, Nelson had eight catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
In this upcoming game this Sunday afternoon, although the Packers are really banged up at the cornerback position, the team is still ranked 15th in passing defense, which isn’t bad considering Sam Shields (concussion-IR), Damarious Randall (groin) and Quinten Rollins (groin) have been absent from the field more often than not lately.
The Packers secondary has given up 10 touchdown passes, but have also picked off five passes. The opposing quarterbacks have a 91.4 passer rating against the Pack.
The Falcons are ranked 31st in passing defense, so that is where I expect Rodgers to do some damage. No. 12 really doesn’t have a choice, as Lacy won’t be available until Week 15, if at all, while Starks will be out at least another week.
That means that Montgomery will get some carries as a running back, plus Knile Davis might also get some touches this week after getting another week of practice with the Packers after coming to the team via a trade a couple weeks back.
Atlanta has given up 15 touchdown passes this season already, while also picking off six passes. The opposing quarterbacks have had a 96.9 passer rating against the Dirty Birds.
Bottom line, expect to see the ball in the air quite often on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta in what should be a very entertaining game. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan and Rodgers throw the football a combined 80 to 100 times in this contest.