The Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons both saw their seasons end at the hands of the Green Bay Packers last year. Each team witnessed their home-field advantage disappear as the hot Packers scorched through the NFC playoffs.
With the return of Jermichael Finley and Ryan Grant, the rich get richer for the Packers. An already good offense now has the potential to be completely unstoppable. Add this to the great defense, and the Packers are even more dangerous than last season.
This offseason, the Eagles and the Falcons went all out in order to be able to compete with Green Bay in the NFC. The teams took completely different paths in doing this.
The Falcons decided to add more firepower to their offense in an attempt to outscore the Packers. The Eagles strengthened their defense via free agency, as they will try to slow down the Packers offense in a potential playoff matchup.
Last season, the Falcons had high hopes in their playoff opener after crushing the competition in the regular season and earning the top seed. A fast start added to the Falcons' confidence, but as the game wore on, they failed to keep up with the untouchable Packers offense.
In the 2010 NFL draft, the Falcons stole the early headlines when they traded up to snatch wide receiver Julio Jones. The Falcons surrendered five draft picks spreading over the 2010 and 2011 NFL drafts.
By grabbing Jones, the Falcons add another pass-catcher to compliment Roddy White and provide Matt Ryan with another weapon. A reliable target on the opposite side of the field should take pressure off White.
With one of their few remaining drafts picks in 2010, the Falcons added running back Jacquizz Rodgers as a change-of-pace back to pair with Michael Turner.
This is an interesting approach for a team that's weakness turned out to be its defense. The Packers offense dictated the entire game and did everything they pleased. If it wasn't for a missed Mason Crosby field goal, the Packers would have scored an incredible 51 points.
With the Falcons failing to make many improvements on the defensive side of the ball, there is no reason to think the Packers offense will not be successful once again. It is clear that the Falcons' approach to beating the Packers is to try match them score for score.
In the NFC East, the Philadelphia Eagles took the complete opposite approach and added pieces to strengthen their defense in hopes of being able to stop the Packers offense.
The most active team in free agency, the Eagles were the big winners in the Nnamdi Asomugha sweepstakes. Besides the much-hyped addition of Asomugha, the Eagles added defensive linemen Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin. They also received cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in a trade from the Arizona Cardinals.
These additions launch the Eagles amongst top five defenses in the league. They have three very talented corners and a defensive line that should be able to create more pressure than last season. With the high-powered, Michael Vick-led offense, the Eagles have made themselves a much more balanced team.
They will hope to take away options from Aaron Rodgers with their high-profile corners. If the Eagles are able to take out the Packers' top three pass-catchers, the Packers will still have significant mismatches against the Eagles' fourth and fifth corners.
Finley will also pose a big threat to the Eagles defense because of his size and will most likely be double-teamed. In the Week 1 matchup last season, there were times Finley was shadowed by three different defenders.
Packers fans should take these moves as the highest form of compliment. It is obvious that the Falcons and Eagles realize the potential that the Packers have and felt the need to make drastic moves in order to compete. The Packers are still the favorites despite all the hype that is brewing in Philadelphia.
In the chess match that is NFL football, these were the counter moves the two teams were forced to make in order to stay relevant and competitive.