The Atlanta Falcons are a better football team than the Green Bay Packers. That’s an indisputable fact, even to a shirtless Cheesehead.
That said, we all saw what the Packers did in Jerry Jones’ house, wrecking the #1 seeded Cowboys with a barrage of points early in that contest.
Likewise, that could happen in the Georgia Dome on Sunday afternoon. And this Atlanta fan does not want to see Matt Ryan and company have to come back from a three score deficit.
Preferably for me, Green Bay would be the team getting jumped on in the first half this week in the NFC Title Game. Let’s see if Rodgers is still flammable when his team is down by 20 points.
There are several key areas where Atlanta has the advantage over the Pack, making a blowout possible in this game.
Let’s look at the matchups.
Quarterback: Matt Ryan is taking a backseat to no one this year. I like my chances with Ryan just as much as any QB left in the hunt for a ring. Still, it’s undeniable that Rodgers has the hottest hand in the playoffs.
This game could come down to who has the ball last. And even then, a hot-handed gunslinger or MVP can get picked off at any time. We saw it last week in Dallas when the Packers were fortunate to get a pass interference call that negated a Rodgers’ INT in the second half.
Running Back: Green Bay has none technically. Atlanta has two of the best in Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. Ty Montgomery has been a nice fill-in for the Packers, but he’s not a true workhorse. He missed the regular season contest between these two teams by the way.
If Dan Quinn’s game plan is to keep Rodgers on the sideline, we could see a heavy dose of the two-pronged Atlanta rushing attack.
Special Teams: Atlanta will need to tighten up after what their former teammate did to them last week versus Seattle. Devin Hester exposed flaws galore in Atlanta’s kicking teams.
Green Bay ranked 19th in kickoff return yards and 20th in punt return yardage during the regular season.
Defense: We know neither of these teams are dominant on the defensive side. Both rank in the bottom third of the NFL in overall defense. Atlanta being 25th. Green Bay 22nd.
So this game should be another shootout like we saw in week eight.
Wide Receiver: Here is where the ultimate difference lies in this crucial game. It could be the difference between a multiple Super Bowl participant returning to glory and a one-time SB team getting another shot to actually win one.
Matt Ryan has Julio Jones. Aaron Rodgers does not. He had Jordy Nelson and lost him to cracked ribs. Even if Nelson toughs it out on Sunday, he won’t be the same. And even at 100 percent, Jones is the better player.
Jones has a chance to put his city on his back and carry the ATL to Super Bowl 51. He’s dealing with a nagging toe injury himself. But I don’t see that slowing him down in the most important game of his life.
Green Bay’s run defense is one of the better units in the League, ranking 8th. They could conceivably slow Freeman and Coleman down out of the backfield.
The Packers pass defense is another story, ranking dead last in the NFL according to Sportingcharts.com. Jones, along with Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel (questionable) could light up the Pack for gobs of yards. Still, yardage alone won’t be enough to run Aaron Rodgers out of contention for his second Super Bowl Belt.
There is no doubt in any football fan’s mind that Aaron Rodgers can make do with any receiver on his roster. And full credit to guys like Jared Cook for stepping up their game to become heroes in the biggest moments.
But I’m siding with the team with the superstar wideout.
Julio Jones can go legend in Atlanta in the NFC Title Game. This guy has been everything Arthur Blank could have asked for when he gave away loads of draft picks to get him.
Against the Packers, Julio Jones can help give Mr. Blank what he’s wanted most since buying the franchise in 2002….a trip to the Super Bowl.