The Atlanta Falcons were one of four teams that received a bye in the NFL’s wild card round. They ended up with the NFC’s No. 1 seed, which most would think would grant them with an “easy” first game in the playoffs.
Too bad there aren’t any “easy” games in the NFL, especially in the playoffs.
The Falcons will get to host the Green Bay Packers, who went 10-6 in the regular season and are coming in with a three game win streak that includes a 21-16 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFL playoffs’ opening round, Saturday night on FOX. This looks to be a great matchup for fans of football, but a game that both teams’ fans will probably feel a little nervous about.
The Falcons and Packers met one time this year, with the Falcons pulling out a great 20-17 win in the Georgia Dome, which should give the team a bit of confidence going into the game. The Packers really played exceptionally well though, with a huge fumble by Rodgers at the Falcons' 1-yard line early in the game possibly costing them the win.
The Packers were able to get into the playoffs after having one of the most one-dimensional offenses in the league, as they finished the regular season fifth in passing yards behind the arm of the great quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but only 24th in rushing, and only gained 77 yards on 23 carries (51 of which came from Rodgers’s 12 carries) the first time the teams met this year.
Don’t expect too much of an improvement for the Packers’ run game in this one. Running back James Stark did set a Green Bay rookie playoff record with 123 on 23 carries against the Eagles, so we'll see how big of a factor he is.
They key to the Packers’ playoff run, however, is not their offense but their defense, which, led by corner Charles Woodson (two interceptions and 13 passes defended) and outside linebacker Clay Matthews (13.5 sacks) has only allowed an average of 309.1 yards per game, including just 194.2 against the pass, which was fifth in the league.
The Falcons, however, must come into the game with the utmost confidence. They are an outstanding 20-2 at home under Matt Ryan, they have the NFC’s leading rusher in Michael Turner (1,371 yards and 12 touchdowns), and they have a defense that has been very opportunistic, picking off 22 passes (fourth in the league) and recovering nine fumbles.
Ryan was fantastic in the first matchup between the two teams, completing 24 of his 28 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, all of which included a game-winning drive with a minute left after the Packers tied the game up on a Rodger’s pass at 17. Turner also had a very successful day, rushing for 110 yards on 23 carries, tacking on a touchdown of his own.
This is a game that has all the makings of a classic. Two young quarterbacks in Ryan and Rodgers that are still trying to prove their spots among the elite quarterbacks in the league, game changers at wide receiver in Roddy White for the Falcons and Greg Jennings for the Packers, and playmakers on defense such as John Abraham and Brent Grimes for the Falcons and Woodson and Matthews for the Packers.
The team that wins this one will be the team that doesn’t beat itself, which points to the Falcons perhaps being the favorite, only time will tell though.
If only there was an easy game in the NFL.