This NFC divisional matchup features two of the NFL's emerging stars at the quarterback position in Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan. They each have two very distinct playing styles but are very capable of leading their teams to victory.
The edge goes to Green Bay for a number of reasons. The most important being their cohesiveness as a unit. The Packers have been decimated by injuries this year and every single time there has been another player waiting in the wings to make significant contributions to the team.
The playoffs are all about sacrifice and finding the teams looking to lay it all on the line for each other. A ton of credit goes to Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson for their leadership but the fate of this Packer team now rests in the hand of its players.
The Falcons, keeping true to their slogan for the 2010-11 campaign may just "rise up" but for now my money is on the Green Bay Packers.
During the regular season the Atlanta Falcons defense ranked 22nd in pass yards allowed, 10th in rush yards, 16th in total yards, and 5th in points scored against at 18 points. The Packers offense on the other hand ranks 5th in passing yards, 24th in rushing yards, 9th in total yards at 358.1, and 10th in points scored at 24.2.
The last time these two teams met in November, Aaron Rodger led the maligned Packers in rushing yards with 51 yards on 12 carries but passed for a game high 344 yards with a passer rating of 114.5 . The Packers lost that game 20 - 17 on a Matt Bryant field goal with :09 seconds left in the game. Green Bay has since added an improved rushing attack and Aaron Rodgers proficiency as a passer is unquestionable.
The Falcons defense is opportunistic and counts on timely plays from some of its play-makers (Abraham, Robinson, and Grimes) to keep it in the game. However, it has proven that it will give up plenty yards. Look for Green Bay to try to silence the Georgia Dome crowd early.
The 6th Round draft pick in the 2010 Draft our of Buffalo spent the bulk of the season on injured reserve but has emerged at the end of the season to provide the offensive spark the Packers need in their rushing offensive attack.
His running style reminds me of former Virginia standout Terry Kirby. In two regular season appearances, Starks rushed for 101 yards on 29 carries. Last weekend, he exploded for 123 yards on 23 carries and spurred the Packers to a victory over the Michael Vick led Eagles.
If he can keep up the performance, it'll keep the Falcons defense honest and open up Green Bay's lethal play-action passing game.
The former Heisman trophy winner and reigning Defensive Player of The Year is a savvy veteran and a key piece in coordinator Dom Capers' defensive scheme. Look for Woodson to blitz from different areas of the field and try to pressure Matty Ice and the Falcons offense into turnovers.
The latest of the Matthews spawn to bring his talents to the NFL is quickly making his mark. He's playing like a man possessed and is a contender for Defensive Player of The Year. Look for him to create pressure with his relentless pass rush and as a blitzing linebacker.
Aaron Rodgers has passed for 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year and has a passer rating of 101.2 . He throws one of the prettiest and most accurate deep balls in the NFL and brings a ton of athleticism to the table with his ability to extend the play with his legs.
Familiarity breeds comfort and the fact that he's already faced the Falcons once this year and had success should help him ease into the flow of the game. Never mind the fact that he'll probably always play with a chip on his shoulder for what he's endured early in his career in the NFL.
If this game turns into a shootout my I'm all in on Aaron Rodgers.