The Green Bay Packers finished the regular season with a 15-1 record. Because of that they probably feel as if they can beat any team in the league, and I wouldn't doubt that.
With that said, though, I think the Packers will be rooting hard for the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
In Week 13 the New York Giants, who are hosting the Falcons this weekend, gave the Packers all they could handle. The Giants tied the game at 35 late, but Aaron Rodgers and the Packers marched down the field and kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired.
New York may not have won the game, but it was very apparent that they had the tools to compete with the Packers. With that in mind, I think Green Bay would much rather play Atlanta in the second round, especially since the Packers beat the Falcons handily in the playoffs last year and earlier this season.
That point would be moot if the Detroit Lions were to upset the New Orleans Saints as the Lions would automatically face the Packers, but I expect the Saints to hold serve. It basically comes down to whether the Falcons or Giants will present a more advantageous matchup.
I would say that the Falcons have the better overall offense than the Giants as they are equally adept at passing with quarterback Matt Ryan or running it with running back Michael Turner. At the same time, however, Giants quarterback Eli Manning had his best season by far and has been incredibly dangerous late in games.
In terms of defense there is no question that the Giants have the advantage. They struggled to stop the pass, but they have a fighting chance against Rodgers because of an extremely deep pass rush that features Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Chris Canty and Mathias Kiwanuka.
Rodgers handles pass rushers better than any quarterback in the league because of his combination of a quick release, great decision-making skills and mobility. With that said, though, a defense can't just sit idly by and allow Rodgers to pick it apart. That's why I give the Giants a puncher's chance more so than the Falcons.
No matter how you slice it, neither matchup will be a cakewalk for the Packers, but this Giants team is eerily similar to the 2007 team that beat the then-undefeated New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. When you think about it, the similarities truly are uncanny.
The Giants barely snuck into the playoffs that year as well, and they played the Patriots in the last week of the regular season, ironically losing 38-35. That is the same score that the Packers beat the Giants by this season.
While the circumstances are a bit different since Green Bay did lose one game, that particular contest likely gave the Giants the confidence that they can beat the Packers. If the Packers and Giants were to play 10 times, the Giants might only win one of them, but the same could have been said about the Giants and Patriots in 2007.
All it takes is one slip up from the Packers and they're out of the playoffs. Green Bay likely has confidence against either team, but the Giants may have planted a seed of doubt. If any team is equipped to beat Green Bay, it's the Giants, so I think the Packers would prefer the Falcons to come out on top.