How Do the Atlanta Falcons Stack Up Against the NFC North?
The Falcons will square off against all four members of the NFC North this season. This is will be the first time they’ve played the entire division since 2017 when they went 3-1. The north sent two teams to the playoffs last season and has the potential to repeat that once again this season. Let’s see how the Falcons stack up against the NFC North.
The Falcons opened their 2019 season with a 28-12 loss in Minnesota where the Vikings rushed for 172 yards and Kirk Cousins only threw the ball 12 times. The Vikings finished the season 10-6 and second in the division. The Vikings bread and butter is running the football they ranked sixth in the league in that category last year.
They will rely on running the football again this season with star Dalvin Cook back in the fold. Cousins was able to exercise some playoff demons by beating the Saints on the road. Disgruntled wide receiver Stefon Diggs is gone, but the team used one of its two first-round picks on LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson to help replace the production.
The Vikings have traditionally been good on defense under head coach Mike Zimmer but that could change this season with the losses they’ve had. Everson Giffith, Linval Joseph, Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Andrew Sendejo are all gone. A defense that was middle of the pack against the pass lost two starters but drafted Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler to be replacements at cornerback.
The retooled defense of the Vikings could benefit the Falcons in the Week 6 matchup. However, the Falcons will need to need able to stop the run this time around. The additions of Marlon Davidson, Dante Fowler Jr., and a healthy Deion Jones should help there.
Green Bay Packers:
The Packers were the best team in the division last season with a 13-3 record. Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers started the year off on fire offensively averaging 26 points per game but cooled down after a week nine loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Chargers. The wide receiver position has been a big question mark.
Outside of Davantae Adams, the team doesn’t have a true No.2 option. Rodgers does make others better, but there is only so much he can do. They added running back A. J Dillion in the draft to complement Aaron Jones.
The Packers made a real effort to improve their defense last season and they did with the additions of Preston and Za’Darius Smith on the edges. The two combines for 25.5 sacks last year and made an immediate impact. Jaire Alexander has solidified himself as the team No.1 corner and is one of the better corners in the league.
The Falcons will have to be firing on all cylinders in this one. With their secondary, a work in progress Rodgers could look to have a big day through the air, so stopping the running will be imperative. A shootout will be the likely outcome, so whoever can get the last stop will be the winner.
The Bears finished the season 8-8 and 3rd in the division, but they struggled to get to eight wins because of subpar offensive production. Led by Mitch Trubisky the Bears ranked 29th in the league on offense. They struggled to run the ball averaging 3.9 yards per carry.
The combination of David Montgomery and Tark Cohen stuffed to get anything going without the threat of the pass. They brought in Nick Foles to compete for the starting quarterback job along with tight ends Jimmy Graham and Cole Kmet from Notre Dame in hopes that it will spark the offense.
On defense, the Bears have one of the best units in the league, led by edge rusher Khalil Mack they ranked in the top 10 against the run and the pass.
Akiem Hicks anchors the middle of the line and is a run stuffer, which allows others to have the success they do. Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan anchor the linebacking corps while Eddie Jackson and with Kyle Fuller hold down the secondary. When clicking on all cylinders the Bears defense is extremely difficult to score on. Hicks missed time due to injury last year but it should be good to go this season.
This game will be a slugfest, the Falcons have the better offense, but it is a evened out by the Bears defense. The Bears offense will be slightly better but not by much, so they won’t score a lot of points. The Falcons may need a defensive touchdown or one on special teams.
Lastly, the Detroit Lions are entering year three of head coach Matt Patricia’s tenure. Quarterback Matthew Stafford missed eight games last year after suffering broken bones in his back. When healthy the Lions offense is pretty good, wide receiver Kenny Golladay proved himself at the teams No.1 receiver last year.
The team also drafted D’Andre Swift to complement Kerryon Johnson in the backfield and former first-round pick T.J Hockenson hopes to improve on an up and down rookie campaign. The Lions have the making of a high scoring offense.
On defense, there are question marks. Patricia’s unit ranked toward the bottom of the league in most categories last year and turmoil in the locker room led to some bad performances from some players like Damon Harrison and Darius Slay.
Those two are gone, so they drafted cornerback Jeff Okudah to replace Slay. The Lions also struggled against the run, but the addition of Danny Shelton could help along with the return of Desean Hand from injury. The Falcons will get a look at former corner Desmond Trufant in this one.
All things even this should be a high scoring game. The Falcons are home, so they could give them the advantage.
The Falcons will have its hands full with the NFC North this year, they match up pretty well with every team and there are no clear disadvantages. The good thing for the Falcons is that they will get these games out of the way early in the season, so the weather shouldn't be a factor.
The games against the Vikings and Packers should give them a good indication of where they stand in the conference. A couple of wins there will do wonders for their playoff positioning and overall team morale.
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