GREEN BAY – Both of these teams expected to have more than four wins apiece in early December, but here they are fighting for win No. 5.
This is what’s worth paying attention to.
1. All or nothing: In five career games against the Packers, Falcons WR Julio Jones has either dominated or been practically non-existent. It seems there’s no in-between. On Monday Night Football in 2014, he caught 11 passes for 259 yards and a score, the most receiving yards ever by a Packers opponent and by anyone at Lambeau Field. In the 2016 NFC title game, he had nine grabs for 180 yards and two TDs, and last season, he had 108 yards on just five receptions. But in the 2016 regular season, the Packers held him to three catches for 29 yards, and back in 2011 he had just one reception for 16. This year, with 86 catches for 1,323 yards through 12 games, Jones is on pace for around 115 receptions for 1,750 yards, which would rank second in his career to his first All-Pro season of 2015.
2. Possible history: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has thrown just one interception this season, back in Week 4 vs. Buffalo on a deflected pass, and he’s now attempted 336 passes in a row without a pick. That’s the second-longest streak in NFL history, and he’s 23 pass attempts away from beating Tom Brady’s record of 358. Rodgers knocked on the wooden frame of his locker when asked about the streak this past week.
3. No repeat: Joe Philbin’s head coaching debut with Miami back in 2012 was undone by turnovers on four straight – yes, four straight – possessions. Three interceptions and a fumble on the Dolphins’ final four drives of the first half led directly to 24 Houston points in a blowout win for the Texans. Fortunately, Philbin is now coaching a team that protects the ball much better, with just 12 giveaways in 12 games. That trend must continue for the interim head coach to find success.
4. Family affair: Cousins Clay Matthews and Jake Matthews have gone head-to-head three times before, in the 2014 and ’17 regular seasons and 2016 playoffs (Clay missed the meeting in the ’16 regular season). Pass rusher vs. left tackle. Cornerstones of their units in their own right. They won’t be going against one another the entire game, but certainly a fair number of snaps.
5. Flipping the script: The Packers have lost five of their last six games. The last time they suffered through a stretch of six losses in seven games was a decade ago, in 2008, when Rodgers was a first-year starting QB. Much like the current stretch, all but one of those losses was by one score. Getting over the hump just once would change the outlook on the season’s final month.