Atlanta came away from its Week 13 win with several positives. The offensive line got some push in the ground game, Roddy White appeared to return to form and Atlanta's defense finally came up with a couple of turnovers that helped turn the tide for the Falcons.
They will stay on the road to begin the fourth quarter of their season, as they head to Green Bay to take on a Packers team that is trying to stay alive in the NFC playoff picture.
The Packers have gone 0-4-1 since losing franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a collarbone injury in the first quarter of the team's 27-20 Week 9 loss to the rival Chicago Bears. It's too early to tell whether the Falcons will be facing Rodgers on Sunday, but, either way, Green Bay figures to be a desperate team since its playoff hopes are on life support with the team sitting at 5-6-1.
Let's start off our game-week coverage by discussing the updated NFC South standings, Atlanta's injury report and the biggest question facing the Falcons this week.
NFC SOUTH STANDINGS
|Team||Overall Record||vs. NFC South||vs. NFC||Week 14 Opponent|
|New Orleans Saints||9-3||3-0||7-1||vs. Panthers|
|Carolina Panthers||9-3||3-0||7-2||at Saints|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||3-9||1-4||2-7||vs. Bills|
|Atlanta Falcons||3-9||1-4||2-6||at Packers|
The Falcons' win pulled them back into a last-place tie with the Buccaneers in the division since Tampa Bay lost at Carolina, but the Bucs edge Atlanta in the tiebreaker because of their better record against common opponents. Tampa Bay hosts Buffalo this week.
With the Saints falling to 9-3, Sunday night's contest against the 9-3 Panthers will determine who will be in the driver's seat in this division over the last few weeks of the season. Whoever loses Sunday night's showdown could very easily end up playing on the road during Wild Card Weekend.
FALCONS INJURY REPORT
|Player||Injury||Expected Return Date|
|Mike Johnson||Leg||Out for Season|
|Bradie Ewing||Shoulder||Out for Season|
|Kroy Biermann||Achilles||Out for Season|
|Julio Jones||Foot||Out for Season|
|Akeem Dent||Ankle||Played Week 13 after being listed as Questionable|
|Tony Gonzalez||Toe||Played Week 13 after being listed as Questionable|
|Malliciah Goodman||Calf||Played Week 13 after being listed as Questionable|
|Zeke Motta||Hand||Played Week 13 after being listed as Questionable|
AtlantaFalcons.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Falcons had multiple players miss some practice time last week, but each of them played in the game against the Bills. It's probably safe to expect a similar pattern this week, since many players are dealing with minor injuries at this point in the season—particularly veteran players like Tony Gonzalez.
Since Atlanta didn't sustain any major injuries against the Bills, look for much of the injury-related news this week to focus on the man who lines up under center for Atlanta's Week 14 opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
While Green Bay certainly needs this week's contest to boost its playoff hopes, ESPN.com's Chris Mortensen reported that the team may take a conservative approach and sit Rodgers if it believes that's in the long-term interests of the team.
BIGGEST QUESTION FACING THE FALCONS THIS WEEK
After giving up 195 yards on the ground to the Bills, can Atlanta's run defense hold up against what figures to be a heavy dose of Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy?
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“The way we’ve been playing run last couple weeks it’s a big concern,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said via D. Orlando Ledbetter of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Green Bay had made a concerted effort to run the football this season. We will see a big, strong running back this week who we have to put multiple pads on. We have to tackle much better than we did Sunday.”
Even if Aaron Rodgers plays on Sunday, you can probably expect Packers coach Mike McCarthy to keep him out of too many situations where he could be exposed to aggravating his collarbone injury. Given that and Atlanta's soft rush defense, the ex-Alabama Crimson Tide running back could be in line for a big day.
If the Falcons want to start a win streak to end their season, they will need to get a much better effort from their front seven against the run than what they've gotten thus far this season.