Packers vs. Falcons: 10 Bold Predictions for the NFC Playoff Showdown
The Atlanta Falcons played all season for this opportunity.
The chance to show that they really have arrived and that their 13-3 record, 7-1 at home this season, is something that should strike fear into opponents' hearts is finally here.
The Green Bay Packers on the other hand, had a different route to the postseason and will play every game they earn on the road.
They'll have to get over their 3-5 regular season road record and last week's win in Philadelphia was a good place to start.
Back in November these two teams met and the game was decided on a last second Falcon field goal; we could only be so lucky to have such a game repeat itself.
Atlanta has not won a postseason game since 2004; Green Bay won their first since 2007 last weekend.
Here are 10 bold predictions for this week's NFC showdown.
10. Georgia Dome Explodes With Noise
In what will be the Falcons' first home playoff game in five years, and Matt Ryan's first in his career, is sure to bring decibel levels to new heights in the Georgia Dome.
While many were hoping for a shot at Michael Vick and the Eagles at some point this postseason as well as a rematch with the New Orleans Saints, the Atlanta fans will have to settle for a rematch with Aaron Rodgers; tough break.
Green Bay is no stranger to crowd noise though; having played two games in Philadelphia this season as well as battles with this very Falcon team in the Georgia Dome, and with the Vikings in the Metrodome, the Packers should be ready to go.
The fans in Atlanta will be excited though and the noise should be deafening in the early going.
9. Packers Keep Balance With Running Back James Starks
Last week against Philadelphia, rookie running back James Starks erupted with his best performance in an NFL uniform.
Carrying the ball 23 times for 123 yards, the youngster brought a balance to the Packer offense that his been missing all season long without Ryan Grant.
The 123-yard performance was the first for the Packers since Week 5 against Washington when Brandon Jackson ran for 115 yards in an overtime loss to the Redskins.
Starks may not bust out for over 100 yards against an Atlanta defense that is tenth in the league against the run, but if he can keep a decent balance and force the Falcons to at least respect the ground game, it could pay huge dividends.
8. Tony Gonzalez Leads Falcon Receivers
Tony Gonzalez put up great numbers for a 34-year old tight end this season.
70 receptions, 694 yards, and six touchdowns were second on a team that features a dominant receiving threat in Roddy White.
The Packers only give up 194 yards per game in the air and do a good job limiting opposing teams' top receivers.
Gonzalez, who has developed a nice chemistry with Matt Ryan, will need to be a big time contributor for the Falcons to win.
Last time the two teams met he was Atlanta's leading receiver with six catches for 51 yards and one touchdown.
Expect much of the same from the future Hall of Famer.
7. Green Bay Receivers Dominate Atlanta Secondary
The Atlanta Falcon defense gives up 225 yards per game in the air.
Last time Aaron Rodgers visited the Georgia Dome, he threw for 344 yards, but only one touchdown.
Wide receiver Greg Jennings had 119 yards and was one of three Packer receivers with at least five catches in the game.
Rodgers completed passes to eight different receivers in that contest and Rodgers is still doing much of the same.
Last week he completed passes to nine different receivers in the win over Philadelphia but only threw for 180 yards; he found three different receivers for touchdowns though.
Atlanta better find a way to matchup on the outside as any of the Packers receiving threats have the potential to score touchdowns.
6. Michael Turner Plays Well
Last time these two met Michael Turner went for 110 yards on 23 carries and one touchdown.
The Packers, who gave up 115 yards per game on the ground during the regular season, put so much emphasis on getting after the quarterback that they are susceptible to getting beat by the run.
Michael Turner averaged 4.1 yards per carry on the season and Atlanta was the league's No. 12 rushing attack at 118 yards per game.
The Packers limited LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick to only 81 yards a week ago.
Michael Turner should see some carries early and should make the best of his opportunities against a Packer team that will likely bring some pressure.
5. Clay Matthews Gets To Matt Ryan
Clay Matthews has been a force all season long the Green Bay Packers.
He recorded 13.5 sacks on the year and forced opposing offenses to always account for his position on the field.
Matthews did not sack or hit Ryan in the first meeting and was unusually quiet.
The Falcons were one of the best in the league in protecting Ryan and only gave up 23 sacks on the season.
Clay is too important to the Packer defense to not make an impact in this game; he will get to Matt Ryan.
4. Roddy White Is Quiet
Roddy White was targeted 179 times this season.
He caught 115 balls for 1,379 yards and ten touchdowns this season.
When the Packers played the Falcons, White was limited to only five receptions for 49 yards.
To win in the playoffs, you have to take away what your opponent does best.
Shutting down Mike Vick was Green Bay's goal a week ago, this week I fully expect to see them force Matt Ryan into throwing to anybody but Roddy White.
Cornerback Tramon Williams has played over-his-head good as of late and Charles Woodson is still one of the craftiest and most game-changing cornerbacks playing football.
Woodson may be involved more near the line of scrimmage and in blitz packages, but Williams should be able keep a lid on White if the Packers can get pressure on Ryan.
3. Aaron Rodgers Outplays Matt Ryan
Not many quarterbacks are playing as good as Aaron Rodgers right now.
Coming off of a concussion and missing almost all of two games before returning, Rodgers has virtually been lights out over the past three weeks.
Eight touchdown passes to only one interception with a completion percentage over 67 percent; Rodgers should continue to pour it on against a less than stellar secondary in Atlanta.
Ryan's past four games have not been his best, and two of those four were against the Carolina Panthers (which he did destroy in the season finale).
Rodgers versus Ryan will be a fantastic battle between two of the best young signal callers the league has to offer, but Rodgers may be poised for the big breakout to the next round of the playoffs before Ryan.
2. Matt Ryan Throws Multiple Interceptions
Atlanta's quarterback only had two multiple interception games this season against San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay did not sack Ryan, but hit him three times, and Ryan only completed 50 percent of his passes.
The 49ers sacked Ryan three times and hit seven altogether.
Both games were close, decided by less than five points, and give the Packers a good idea of how to disrupt the young quarterback.
Green Bay will come after Ryan, and I expect the pressure and coverage on his favorite target, to force him into some errant throws.
1. Packers Win By Seven
Green Bay is getting hot at just the right time and while the Falcons have been a very, very good team this season, they are not complete enough to handle what Green Bay has.
A less than stellar running attack and a heavy reliance on Ryan-to-White could doom the Falcons and their home field advantage.
Rodgers' stellar play as of late, with the playoff, or big game "monkey", off his back will be enough to propel the Packers onward in the NFC.
The Green Bay defense will also do its part in limiting the Falcon offense and while the game will be close for majority of the time, I think the Packers come away with a win by seven points.
Green Bay 24, Atlanta 17