#6 Green Bay Packers (Wild Card) at #1 Atlanta Falcons (NFC South Champion)
Date, Time, Network: Saturday, January 15th at 8:00 PM on FOX
Summary: Following a huge win at Philadelphia, the long road ahead for Green Bay gets tougher as now they must face Atlanta in the Georgia Dome, where Atlanta QB Matt Ryan has lost only twice in his three year career.
Offense: Green Bay’s offense relies heavily on its passing game due in part to an ineffective running game hampered by injury. That is not to say that Green Bay has no running game at all – John Kuhn has been strong in short yardage situations, but usually it does just barely enough to keep defenders from swarming the backfield to make passing more difficult for Packers QB Aaron Rodgers. Concussion issues aside, Rodgers had another fine season, passing for over 3900 yards and 28 touchdowns, and he has several threats at wide receiver, most notably Greg Jennings, though the team’s 2nd-leading receiver James Jones has had problems catching the ball at times.
Atlanta’s offense has been very reliable this season. Matt Ryan, now in his third season with the Falcons, has over 3700 yards with 28 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions on the year. Michael Turner has been an excellent threat on the ground with over 1300 yards rushing. Roddy White has become one of the league’s premier wide receivers with over 1300 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. Should White become a factor in this game, the Falcons will have a huge advantage.
Scoring Offense: Green Bay 10th | Atlanta 5th
Total Offense: Green Bay 9th | Atlanta 16th
Pass Offense: Green Bay 5th | Atlanta 15th
Rush Offense: Green Bay 24th | Atlanta 12th
Defense: Green Bay’s swarming defense proved to make a huge difference against Michael Vick and the Eagles on Sunday. With Clay Matthews perhaps the biggest difference maker for Green Bay’s defense, Green Bay’s secondary is also top notch. Charles Woodson is still a big threat in the secondary, as is Tramon Williams, whose interception at the end of the Eagles game sealed Green Bay’s win.
Atlanta’s defense is an opportunistic, “bend, don’t break” unit which led the NFC in turnover difference. Brent Grimes is Atlanta’s most active defensive back, recording 23 pass deflections and catching five interceptions during the season. John Abraham leads the team with 13 sacks while linebacker Curtis Lofton provides stability at the linebacker position.
Scoring Defense: Green Bay 2nd | Atlanta 5th
Total Defense: Green Bay 5th | Atlanta 16th
Pass Defense: Green Bay 5th | Atlanta 22nd
Rush Defense: Green Bay 18th | Atlanta 10th
Special Teams: The Packers did a fine job limiting Philadelphia in the return game, though that was partly because DeSean Jackson had become injured and was less effective as a result. Atlanta’s Eric Weems has proven to be a solid presence in the return game and could be vital to Atlanta’s success. Matt Bryant had an excellent year kicking field goals, while the same could not be said for Green Bay’s Mason Crosby.
Intangibles: Matt Ryan is 22-2 at home, with one of those losses coming against the Saints in Week 16 of this year. Green Bay was only 3-5 on the road, though they did win at Philadelphia. The two teams did meet in Atlanta on Week 12; the Falcons barely won that game 20-17.
Prediction: The Falcons will be looking for their first playoff win since Matt Ryan became the team’s quarterback, and a lot of people are calling the Packers the best 6-seed they’ve ever seen. However, I am going with the home team in this matchup in another close game. A big run by Michael Turner could be a big difference.
Green Bay: 20
Source for stats:
ESPN, Statistics Page, ESPN.com