Divisional Playoffs: NFC Preview (Part One)

 

 

Are you nervous? Are you excited? Are you positively delirious?! It’s divisional weekend y’all! But before all that, what on EARTH happened last weekend?! Only one home team victorious, both Superbowl-contenders eliminated, one of which by a team with a losing record in the regular season. This all left the so-called experts at Any Given Sunday (Night) red-faced with their predictions for the playoffs laid beside them in tatters. So, with slight hesitation, here is part one of our preview for the NFC before this mouth-watering weekend of football…

 

 

Packers @ Falcons


Saturday 15th – 1am.

 

Proverbial arse-kicker in his own backyard, Matt Ryan, faces off in a home game against a Packers side who grew a third dimension on wild-card weekend in discovering a running game, of all things. When these two teams met in November, the Falcons ran out 20-17 winners with a last-minute field goal in a game that the Packers shone in statistically. The Falcons have had a week off, and will arrive at the Georgia Dome reminding themselves that they are 7-1 in their home stadium, whilst Green Bay will be buzzing from eliminating a promising Philadelphia Eagles side with a 21-16 victory last weekend.

 

Firstly, the victor here will certainly fancy their chances at going to the Superbowl at the expense of the Bears/Seahawks, so if this didn’t mean enough already, Dallas in February will certainly be in their sights. Both teams have a superb array of talent at their disposal, with Pro-Bowlers littering the two sides. The Falcons have been consistent throughout the regular season, finishing 13-3 and rarely looking troubled, and interestingly enough, both NFC teams who defeated the Falcons this season have already been eliminated from the playoffs in the Saints and the Eagles. The Packers, meanwhile, have been topsy-turvy throughout, and almost looked out of the postseason altogether after consecutive defeats to the Lions and Patriots in weeks 14 and 15. But a commanding performance against playoff-rivals the Giants and a nail-biting victory over the Bears in the final week took them through to a wild-card match-up with the Eagles, who looked surprisingly lacklustre whilst going down at home at the Linc.

 

 

Ones To Watch

 

 

As mentioned previously, last Sunday will go down in history as the day the 2010 Green Bay Packers discovered how to run the ball. Throughout the regular season, only once did the Pack rush for over 100 yards in a game, and that included one 71-yard run as part of Brandon Jackson’s 115-yard day. In fact, they only ran over sixty yards on four occasions out of the sixteen match-ups. All of this meant very little when James Starks ran all over an unsuspecting Eagles last Sunday for a quite spectacular 123 yards in only his fourth appearance this campaign (during which he has two of the Packers’ top four rushing days). Whether his performance last Sunday was a result of poor Eagles defense or was just a complete fluke remains to be seen this Saturday night. Starks will not defeat the Falcons on his own (especially considering the Falcons have the 10th-best run defense in the league), but he will without a doubt add a third side to an offensive triangle of the exceptional Aaron Rodgers and his collection of highly-qualified wide receivers which could go a long way in helping the Pack leave the Georgia Dome victorious.

 

Completing the triangle is something the Falcons have no problem with at all. Pro-bowler Michael ‘The Burner’ Turner has been beating down defenses all season, and has 1371 yards complete with 12 touchdowns for his efforts. Fellow Hawaii-resident Roddy White has had another outstanding season with 1389 yards for ten TDs. However, the glue that holds all of this together is third-year quarterback Matt Ryan. He has a whole bundle of yards on the season (3705 in fact) despite having one helluva running back stood behind him, and twenty-eight touchdowns to go with it. On top of this, he just does NOT lose at home (well, not often at least) and has a quite extraordinary habit of winning games when going into the fourth quarter behind, with SIX already this season. The Packers are a powerful unit, without doubt, but if Ryan can avoid the interceptions (a minor blip on his 2011 campaign so far) then the Falcons have a massive, massive chance of going to the championship game.

 

Prediction

 

I do not even know where to start. The Falcons need to have the balls to believe that they really are better than the Packers, and there is no way better to do this than to race into an early lead at home. However, Matt Ryan is an expert at coming back in the fourth quarter, so maybe that is not even essential in itself. On paper, the Falcons home record plus a collection of excellent go-to guys make Atlanta favourites, but you can never write off a team with the talent of Aaron Rodgers who are absolutely buzzing right now. I predict Atlanta by three. In the last minute. But maybe the Packers. By twenty one. Because the NFL is absolutely crazy this year.

 

 

David Dickson.

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    • Richard Weston
    • January 13th, 2011

    Refreshing to read about both sides of this game, America has just fallen in love with the Packers lately (forgetting so many shortcomings and injuries). Amazing that the 1-seed Falcons can play the ‘we don’t get respect’ card in the home team dressing room!

    • Richard Weston
    • January 16th, 2011

    ‘…if Ryan can avoid the interceptions, then the Falcons have a massive chance of going to the championship game.’

    How prophetic!

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