The second of the divisional games this weekend is an intriguing matchup. Here are my three wishes for the game.
1. A Genuine Quarterback Contest
The Falcons have only ever lost two home games with Matt Ryan as starter, but his one postseason game ended in defeat in Arizona. By a curious coincidence, Aaron Rodgers' only postseason start before last week also ended in defeat to the Cardinals.
We therefore have two top-class quarterbacks who both have very little experience of playing in knockout contests. Very often we have seen one or other of the trigger men places in such a situation crack early in the game, leaving the other to run riot.
On this occasion, though, the two men concerned are already well known for their coolness under pressure. There's no reason to think that either will go to pieces because of the situation, but it is a debut at this stage of the contest for both and you never know how that will affect a player—four years ago everyone expected Rex Grossman to crumble at this point, but he got to the Super Bowl before cracking up completely.
This will be a great game if both quarterbacks play to their potential and we have to hope that the occasion doesn't get to either of them.
2. A Big Day for Michael Turner
In any other team or any other season, Turner would have been firmly in the running for at least a mention in the MVP vote. He's rushed for over 1,300 yards this season and racked up 12 touchdowns, he's carried the ball 334 times. Those are statistics which would have been far more prominent had he played for certain other teams.
The fact is though, that Atlanta have somehow managed to lockdown a 13-3 season without anyone really noticing. There have been bigger stories elsewhere, to the point where people only really started taking the Falcons seriously when they secured the No. 1 seeding in the NFC.
Not only is this somewhat unfair, it means that players such as Turner (and Ryan for that matter) have had seasons well above average and no one knows about them. Tonight, Turner gets a chance to shine on a big stage at last and I, for one, hope he takes it.
3. The Return of the Packers' Running Game
How much of a surprise was it when the Packers came out running the ball against Pittsburgh last weekend? No one could have expected rookie James Starks to come out and have a career day on such an important occasion (the Eagles certainly didn't!).
But it was the way that they did it that was so interesting, using two fullbacks—John Kuhn (fast becoming something of a folk hero in Wisconsin) and Quinn Johnston—almost as old-fashioned wing backs in order to break holes for Starks.
Atlanta will, of course, be better prepared for that tactic than Philadelphia were, and it will be a surprise if Starks sees as many carries this week, but the fact that Green Bay has some variety to its offense at long last makes this contest all the more interesting.
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