Monday Night Football Preview: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Defense
Green Bay Packers fans are spoiled little turd muffins.
I don't say this because there's anything wrong with them. Wisconsin sports fans are some of the best in the world, and they're generally pretty nice, too.
This derives straight from jealousy and jealousy alone.
This jealousy is not unique to one rando New York Jets fan. This is the jealousy felt by the 31 other franchises that have not been quarterbacked by future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks for the past 23 seasons. The Packers have missed the playoffs six times over those 23 seasons, assuming they end up making it this year. Like I said. Turd muffins.
Tonight, their more recent stud will face a team looking to make the playoffs itself despite a 5-7 record. The Falcons have won three of their last four and can take a one-game lead in the NFC South with a victory. What should we expect in this potential shootout?
We can answer this using numberFire's Game Projections page. It includes win odds, odds a team will cover, odds on the over/under, odds Aaron Rodgers will provide a tribute to Smokin' Jay Cutler. Read it, enjoy it, love it. Let's get cracking.
Can Anyone Stop Aaron Rodgers?
This is kind of a trick question because "anyone" would imply that, if possible, it would take a top-of-the-line defense to do so. The Falcons' defense does not qualify for such a label.
Entering Week 14, the Falcons have the third worst pass defense in the league, according to our Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. They should have fun against one of the illest quarterbacks alive.
Entering Week 13, Rodgers had a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.37, the top rating in the league. Peyton Manning checked in second at 0.31. No other quarterback was above 0.30.
Since numberFire began compiling NEP data in 2000, only five quarterbacks have finished the year with a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.37 or higher. Manning accounted for three of those seasons, Rodgers for one, and Tom Brady the other. This is one of the greatest quarterback seasons of recent time.
Rodgers has thrown three interceptions the entire season, and two came in the same game. He has eclipsed the 300-yard barrier six times and thrown for at least 3 touchdowns seven times. Da Gawd of the NFL wears green and gold, y'all.
For this game, Rodgers is projected at 283.73 yards on 35.50 attempts (7.99 yards per attempt) with 2.40 touchdowns and 0.66 interceptions. This can only mean tasty things for Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.
On numberFire's Week 14 Projections, only one wide receiver was projected at more than 0.80 touchdowns; that was Nelson at 0.90. This, coupled with his projected 82.56 yards, put him as the fourth-ranked wide receiver.
His good pal Randall was sitting right behind him in fifth. He was projected at 83.86 yards and 0.72 touchdowns. Swoontastic.
The Packers as a team are averaging 36.22 points per game in the nine contests since Rodgers' "R-E-L-A-X" speech. Atlanta has allowed an average of 25.22 points per game over that span, although they have allowed fewer than 20 three of the past four weeks. That's while facing quarterbacks named McCown, Newton, Hoyer, and Stanton. Aaron Rodgers changes things just a wee bit.
Is the Falcons' Offense Back to Its Old Self?
Entering their bye week in Week 9, the Falcons had lost five straight games to fall to 2-6 on the season. They lost by an average score of 29.8-17.8 over the skid.
Something changed at the bye. The defense, assisted by the aforementioned blech opposing quarterbacks, kicked it up a notch. The average final score in the four games since is 24.75-19.5 in favor of Atlanta.
While the defense has picked things up considerably, so has the offense. Just last week, they dropped 29 points on the Arizona Cardinals, including 358 passing and 142 rushing yards. That's far different than the team that scored seven at home against Baltimore while gaining 254 yards.
A big part of that explosion last week was the re-emergence of Julio Jones. Jones went off for 10 receptions for 189 yards and a touchdown. This was following a stretch where he failed to eclipse 70 receiving yards in five of six games.
Even over that stretch, Jones maintained a fairly solid floor. His lowest totals this year are four receptions for 56 yards. He has been held below 10 PPR points just once, and that was when he had 9.8 against the Lions.
That floor is coupled with a fairly high ceiling. Jones has eclipsed 18 PPR points five times this year (with yardage bonuses excluded), including two games of 34-plus points.
For this week, Julio has the numberFire computers all hot and bothered. He was the number-two wide receiver, projected at 92.57 yards and 0.78 touchdowns. Classify this under the "acceptable" category.
Last week's impressive victory over Arizona even came without the services of Roddy White, who missed the game with an ankle injury. White did practice on a limited basis Saturday, and Mike Smith has been saying that he expects White to start.
White's start to the season was fairly putrid for a guy of his reputation. He averaged 3.8 receptions for 50.6 yards and 0.40 touchdowns and endless tears from his fantasy owners over the first five games.
Since then, his worst week has not been as bad as those averages. He had cranked those numbers up to 7.4 receptions for 81.8 yards and 0.60 touchdowns per game in the five games leading up to the injury. It's probably best to avoid him in fantasy this week because of the ankle, but dude can still post numbers at the age of 33.
The receivers aren't the only ones that have increased their production recently. Somebody has to get them the ball. That someone may have a nickname inspired by a cheap, disgusting beer, but Matty Ice has gone done smoothly as of late.
Matt Ryanended the team's Week 7 loss to Baltimore with a 0.14 Passing NEP per drop back and a 50.17 percent success rate (percentage of plays in which he increased the team's expected points on the drive). Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick both had better per-drop-back stats than Ryan at the time. Not so much any more.
In the five games since that embarrassment, Ryan has posted a Passing NEP per drop back of 0.22 and a success rate of 55.61 percent. Those are both top-tier numbers, though the sample size is small.
It's not as if the competition has been other-worldly awful over this span, either. Arizona and Detroit entered Week 14 ranked third and fourth respectively in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play, and Tampa Bay, Carolina and Cleveland all rank within the top 21. The Packers rank 16th. Tonight should be a good test to see whether or not the Falcons are a team worthy of the post-season.
Do the Defenses Bother Showing Up?
As a person who would benefit from freak-out games by Cobb and Davante Adams, I'm hoping the answer here is "no." Season 4, Episode 6 of 2 Broke Girls is on right before kick-off, so y'all can catch up with that and then just come out whenever. Much appreciated.
With an over/under of 55.0, Vegas is apparently banking on some preoccupied defenders, as well. The question is whether or not they can actually reach that.
Part of our game projections is a list of similar games based on historic matches that run parallel to this one. The list includes whether or not the respective games hit their specific over.
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