Packers vs. Falcons: 5 Bold Predictions for Saturday Playoff Rematch in Atlanta
When the Green Bay Packers (11-6) hit the field in Atlanta this Saturday evening against the Atlanta Falcons (13-3), it's safe to say that more than just bragging rights are on the line.
In what will seemingly amount to Green Bay's third straight game in a win-or-go-home situation, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers have already been in playoff mode for nearly a month's time.
Atlanta, on the other hand, has proved over the course of the regular season why in fact it is a force to be dealt with at home—outscoring its opponents 214 to 139 at the Georgia Dome this season.
With excessive hype and numerous headlines buzzing throughout the NFL as Saturday draws nearer, what should you look for during Saturday night's contest?
Here are my five boldest predictions for Saturday night's super matchup.
1. Michael Turner Will Eclipse 100 Yards, One Touchdown
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What Falcons running back Michael Turner did to the Green Bay defense in their Week 12 matchup was quite humbling to Packers fans: 110 yards and one touchdown, including a 4.8 yard per carry average.
Rather impressive, wouldn't you say?
Despite having the animal that is Clay Matthews III on the other side of the ball, Green Bay has allowed 114.9 yards per game in the regular season, while bearing 10 40-plus-yard carries.
Yes, the Packers are stout on the defensive side of the ball.
However, Turner and the Falcons' offensive line have gotten the job done this season—and look to carry that success into Saturday night.
2. James Starks Will Attain 120 Yards, One Touchdown
There's a new guy on the block, and his name is James Starks.
Running for 123 yards on 23 carries, Starks was the X-factor leading to Green Bay's 21-16 victory over Michael Vick and the Eagles last Sunday night.
Atlanta boasts one of the most underrated and under-appreciated defenses the league has to offer. But the fact still remains that with Jonathan Babineaux in the lineup, Atlanta has only given up just over 100 yards per game to opposing running backs.
Still, with the newly found running game Starks has contributed to, Packers coach Mike McCarthy will be heeding greatly Starks' ability to run the football effectively—and with a solid offensive line up front, Starks will be on his way to another career game.
3. Matt Ryan Will Account for at Least One Turnover
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The recurring theme this season is how Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is nearly perfect when it counts.
I'm here today to tell you how that couldn't be more wrong—plain and simple.
Ryan has a 3:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2010 and has proved himself to be a reliable arm...when the pressure remains on the down-low.
Unfortunately for Ryan, the pressure will not be haltered.
Green Bay's defensive coordinator Dom Capers has seen Atlanta's schemes already this season, and with Clay Matthews III, Desmond Bishop, Charles Woodson and B.J. Raji in hot pursuit, Ryan will be in for a long day under immense pressure.
When the pressure is on—like it will be—Ryan will make some uneducated throws.
4. Aaron Rodgers Will Torch the Atlanta Secondary
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Under freezing conditions—not to mention in front of the hostile Philadelphia crowd—Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers attained his first playoff victory as a starting quarterback, racking up 180 yards and three touchdown passes against the Eagles secondary.
Not only is Rodgers the most efficient quarterback against the blitz in the NFL, he has also managed to spread the football around effectively—completing at least one pass to nine different Packers receivers in three consecutive games.
In their first meeting, Rodgers went off for 344 yards and a game-tying touchdown in the final minute of the Week 12 contest.
Look for the same this Saturday night, as Rodgers and the Packers offense go up against a pass defense allowing 226.6 yards per game to opposing quarterbacks.
5. Clay Matthews Will Be the Difference Maker
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How fitting for the Green Bay defense; how detrimental for the Falcons' offensive line.
Clay Matthews started off the season in history-making fashion, recording six sacks in his first two games alone.
Come Sunday, Matt Ryan had better be ready.
The hero behind Dom Capers' genius, Matthews has been a force all season long for a number of offensive linemen. However, in their Week 12 meeting, Clay was limited to just four tackles and no sacks on Ryan.
In his second go-around in Atlanta, Matthews will take it upon himself to cause havoc against Ryan—and if you don't believe me, just ask Michael Vick. He'll tell you how it is.
When Matthews comes from the outside, look for No. 52 to be in on a critical turnover.