Green Bay vs. Atlanta: 5 Reasons the Packers Can Beat the Falcons
The Green Bay Packers (10-6) won on the road Sunday in Philadelphia during Wild Card Weekend of the NFL Playoffs.
The road for the Packers won't get any easier as they now travel to the Georgia Dome to face the No. 1 NFC seed, the Atlanta Falcons (13-3).
Here are five reasons that the Packers can pull off the upset.
1. Aaron Rodgers
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Aaron Rodgers has shown that the playoffs don't scare him. Rodgers has put together the best stats ever for a quarterback's first two playoff starts.
After last year's Wild Card loss to the Arizona Cardinals and Sunday's win over the Eagles, Rodgers has completed 46 of 69 passes for 623 yards, seven touchdowns and a passer rating of 122.0 (the highest passer rating ever for a quarterback over his first two starts).
To go along with his historic passing attack, Rodgers has also been able to contribute on the ground. During the regular season, Rodgers was the third leading rusher out of the quarterback position gaining 356 yards and four touchdowns. In the playoffs, he has been able to add a touchdown on the ground as well (Arizona game).
2. Emergence of a Running Game
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The Packers have struggled to find a running game all season after Ryan Grant went down for the year in Week 1.
They may have just found their answer in rookie running back James Starks. Starks, a sixth-round draft pick this season, spent most of the season hurt and was still a question mark on whether he would suit up for the playoffs.
Very few people thought the Packers would rely so heavily on Starks in the game against the Eagles, but Mike McCarthy rode the hot hand all the way to victory Sunday.
The Packers running game was among the worst in the NFL all season. They averaged a meager 100.4 yards per game, good for 24th in the league.
When the Packers played the Falcons in Week 12 to a 20-17 loss, the Packers only rushed for 77 yards. The number is a little skewed when you look at who got the yards, though, with Aaron Rodgers accounting for 51 of those yards. The running backs that day combined for 11 carries and 26 yards.
In contrast, James Starks ran for 123 yards on 23 carries.
Should the Packers continue their success on the ground, they become a much more balanced attack that can beat any team they come across.
3. Tramon Williams
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Tramon Williams, although not named to the Pro Bowl this season, has been the best defensive back in one of the top defenses against the pass this season.
The Packers defense ranked fifth in the NFL against the pass this year, giving up only 194.2 a game. Tramon Williams is the main reason.
Williams had a career season, recording 57 tackles to go along with his six interceptions and 20 passes defended.
Williams had another good game against the Eagles, limiting (an injured) Desean Jackson to only two receptions and adding a game-clinching interception in the waning moments on Sunday.
Williams will have the unenviable task of defending the top NFC wide receiver in Roddy White on Saturday. In their first meeting, White was limited to 49 yards on five receptions.
Tramon's ability to cover White will allow Charles Woodson to get involved in the pass rush on Matt Ryan.
4. BJ Raji
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BJ Raji, in his sophomore season, has become a key cog in the defensive line for Green Bay.
Against the Eagles on Sunday, Raji was instrumental in limiting Vick's opportunities to run and controlling the line of scrimmage.
Raji also came up with some key tackles, including a drive-stalling tackle on Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.
Raji helped limit McCoy to only 46 yards on 12 carries.
Raji will be vital against the Atlanta Falcons and will need to try and stop one of the top runners in the NFC, Michael Turner.
During the first meeting of these two teams, Turner got the better of the Packers. Turner ran for 110 yards on 23 carries to go with a fourth-quarter touchdown.
If the Packers want a chance to beat the Falcons, Raji will need to dominate the line of scrimmage to limit Turner's effectiveness.
5. Clay Matthews
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Clay Matthews, in his second NFL season, has established himself as the premier pass rusher in the league.
One of the favorites for defensive MVP, Matthews has been terrorizing quarterbacks all season to the tune of 13.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
In the game versus the Eagles, defensive coordinator Dom Capers was mixing up the blitz packages, dropping Matthews into coverage often. When Capers unleashed the beast, Matthews was dominating. In the nine plays that Matthews blitzed, Vick completed only one pass and was sacked twice (once by Matthews).
Matthews was held sackless in the first meeting with the NFC favorites. Look for him to remedy that this week.
The Packers will look to show Matt Ryan as many blitz looks as they can to confuse Matty Ice. Matthews will most likely be a factor come Saturday.