Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is looking for back-to-back victories for the first time this season as Atlanta takes on a Green Bay team without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. (Reuters)
GREEN BAY, Wisc. — The Green Bay Packers’ playoff hopes are on life support and might not survive another week without Aaron Rodgers as they prepare for today’s visit by the Atlanta Falcons.
Green Bay’s quarterback will sit out a fifth consecutive game due to a broken collarbone and the Packers are winless since he was injured Nov. 4, falling two games behind NFC North leader Detroit in the win column. The Falcons are not in the playoff picture but are looking for their first back-to-back victories in a season gone wrong.
Rodgers returned to practice on a limited basis this week, providing a slight hope that he would return to the lineup, but the team ruled him out on Friday.
“Aaron Rodgers is not ready to go,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. Matt Flynn, who took the starter’s reps in practice, is likely to have success against a Falcons defense that has allowed 30 or more points six times this season, including four of the past five games.
Not much has gone right for Atlanta, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where it ranks 20th against the pass and 30th against the run.
Matt Ryan and the passing game have put up decent numbers, but mostly out of necessity. The Falcons rank 29th in the league in rushing (81.1 yards per game) and have played from behind most of the season.
Ryan, however, is starting to play well through the Falcons’ chaos.
“Matt is still one of the top tier quarterbacks in the NFL,” Falcons offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said. “He’s had some games that were better than others. There are not too many guys that we’d be trading him for, in my opinion.”
Ryan has been without his main rushing threat for parts of the season, both of his Pro Bowl wide receivers, his promising young fullback and has been asked to perform behind a shaky makeshift offensive line.
“First off, nobody has higher expectations of himself than Matt,” Koetter said. “Matt sets the bar very high for himself. As a coaching staff we a put a lot on Matt. We have very high expectations of him. More times than not, he lives up to our expectations and exceeds them.”
Ryan has completed 325 of 490 passes for 3,471 yards, 19 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 89.6. Those numbers aren’t likely going to earn him his third Pro Bowl berth, but giving the upheaval surrounded the roster and the team, they are pretty remarkable.
“There were a couple of games where we turned it over more than we should,” Koetter said. “There were no excuses for anything. The injury thing is not an excuse.”
Ryan has also taken the type of beating that Archie Manning used to take during his days with the New Orleans Saints, as he has been running for his life behind a poorly revamped offensive line.
“You just have to keep going,” said Ryan, who has been sacked 30 times this season and hit 78 times. “That’s just one of those things. You just have to keep battling. (Buffalo has) one of the best front sevens in the league. Obviously they lead the league in sacks … They’re a talented bunch.”