Five Key Players for the Atlanta Falcons Against the Green Bay Packers

Will BrownContributor IJanuary 11, 2011

Five Key Players for the Atlanta Falcons Against the Green Bay Packers

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    The Packers have been fighting for their postseason lives since Week 16 and have been doing it successfully. They are still alive in the Divisional Round with a chance to head to Atlanta, Georgia to take on the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. The game includes two evenly matched teams, as the 20-17 final in Week 12 shows.

    Both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan played extremely well in the first matchup, but after a Rodgers fumble at the Falcons' one yard line early in the game took away a possible touchdown, the Packers found themselves having to tie the game up at 17 with 56 seconds left on the clock, and it proved to be too much time left as a good kickoff return and a facemask gave the Falcons good field position and Ryan made his way into field goal range and the win.

    This is a game that includes two young quarterbacks that are still trying to find their way in the league and earning more respect from analysts and fans with the play when it matters most: in the playoffs. This game may come down to these players making plays for the Falcons when they need them the most.

5. Tony Gonzalez

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    The last time these two teams played, Gonzalez ended the game as the Falcons’ leading receiver with 51 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. He’s going to need a similar performance, if not a greater one this time around.

    The Packers have a few shutdown corners in Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams, who led the team with six interceptions. That makes Roddy White’s job a lot harder, as evidenced by his five catch, 49-yard performance in the two teams’ first matchup.

    Gonzalez, along with slot receiver Harry Douglas, is going to have to be big this time around for the Falcons to be able to move the ball through the air.

4. Curtis Lofton

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    As one of the most underrated players in the league, Lofton is the heart and soul of the Falcons’ defense. Along with being the person on the defense that makes all the calls and adjustments at the line, Lofton also racked up a team leading 118 tackles, two sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles.

    Going up against one of the best quarterbacks in the league, in Aaron Rodgers, this weekend, Lofton is going to have to be on top of his game.

    Rodgers is great against the blitz or when you drop the majority of your defenders in coverage, so Lofton is going to have to put this defense in position to confuse Rodgers to the best of his ability, along with making plays on his own.

    Sounds like an easy job, doesn’t it?

3. Matt Ryan

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    The quarterback can always go at the top of lists like this, and maybe Ryan should.

    Ryan was amazing the last time these two teams played, with a 24-28 performance going for 197 yards and a touchdown. His accuracy was impeccable on the last drive of the game in particular, going 4-5 and picking up the 20 yards necessary for the game-winning field goal by Matt Bryant.

    Like Lofton on defense, Ryan has to make changes at the line as well as making adjustments with the offensive line, which is probably the most important factor for Ryan in this game.

    The Packers run a very complex attack on defense, using their fantastic outside linebacker Clay Matthews in a number of ways that allow him to get to the quarterback. Ryan is going to have to be able to make adjustments and good reads if the Falcons want to come away with the win.

2. Michael Turner

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    The "Burner" had a good game the first time around, picking up 110 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries against a team that was in the middle of the pack against the run. Turner has to get 20-25 carries and be effective to take pressure off of the Falcons’ defense and the arm of Matt Ryan.

    Turner has been the cog of this offense this year, leading the conference in rushing. What he lacks in explosiveness at times he makes up for in just bruising the linebackers trying to bring him to the turf. Turner wears down defenders with a low-built body that allows him to keep his legs turning and the ability to fall forward on most of his rushes. Having another good game is critical.

1. John Abraham

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    Abraham gets this spot for one reason: Aaron Rodgers is good when you blitz and is good when you don’t.

    Abraham is going to have to continue his amazing play (13 sacks on the year) and pressure Rodgers into some rushed throws that will give the secondary and linebackers a chance to make a play.

    Rodgers has been sacked 31 times during the regular season, which puts him in the middle of the pack for quarterbacks around the league, but was sacked twice against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.

    Abraham and the rest of the defensive line have to be able to put pressure on him, allowing the linebackers to stay into coverage on most downs, helping out the secondary against the offensive onslaught that is the Packers’ passing game.