The Atlanta Falcons (13-3) will have home field advantage for Saturday night's NFC Playoff Game (8:00 PM, Fox) against the Green Bay Packers (10-6). Falcons QB Matt Ryan (357-571, 3,705 yards, 28 TD, 9 Int.) is riding a 20-2 home record into this contest, and Michael Turner (334 touches, 1,371 yards, 12 TDs) shredded the Packers for 123 yards in their week 12 meeting. Add Roddy White (115 rec., 1,389 yards, 10 TDs) to that scheme, and you have a phenomenal triple threat on offense for the Packers to have to overcome. To win this game Aaron Rodgers (312-475, 3,922 yards, 28 TDs, 11 Int.) will have to explode and involve the entire J-Team: James Starks, Greg Jennings (76 rec., 1,265 yards, 12 TDs), Brandon Jackson (190 carries, 703 yards, 3 TDs, 43 rec., 342 yards, TD), John Kuhn (84 carries, 281 yards, 4 TDs, 15 rec., 97 yards, 2 TDs), and James Jones (50 rec., 679 yards, 5 TDs). Donald Driver (51 rec., 565 yards, 4 TDs) is yet another deep threat for Green Bay.
Starks unexpectedly went wild against the Eagles last weekend with 123 yards on 23 carries and an average of over 5 yards per touch. The Packers are also 5th in passing yards per game on offense on the season. Aaron Rodgers can get it done with his feet, too. Rodgers is the team's third leading rusher with 356 yards and 4 touchdowns on 64 attempts.
"Matty Ice" Ryan will have to rely heavily on his top receiver Roddy White, but he also has the benefit of having one of the best tight ends in the history of the league: Tony Gonzalez (70 rec, 656 yards, 6 TDs). Turner will keep the pressure off the passing game by making his running the major distraction in this game. Unlike Ryan's experience against the New Orleans Saints in week 16, clock and game management will be more refined if this one goes down to the wire. His poise at home is incredible, and Green Bay's Charles Woodson (92 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 INT, TD) and the rest of the secondary will have to be at their best to give Aaron Rodgers and his offense a better chance to win. Turner will have to be neutralized by Green Bay linebackers Clay Matthews (60 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 Int, TD) and Desmond Bishop (103 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 Interception, TD) with a little help from Defensive End Cullen Jenkins (18 tackles, 7 sacks) for the Packers to keep the Falcons grounded.
Look for Green Bay to contend but fall short in this epic match. Don't blink in the 4th quarter, because this one could and should be tight to the final whistle. With the chance to take another step closer to the Super Bowl in the balance, this game could certainly come down to special teams. The kicker could be the MVP for whoever wins when the dust settles. A punt or kick return could seal the deal as well. Green Bay has more of a veteran quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but Matt Ryan might actually have the more intense, raw and natural talent. He's also got the hot hand at home with a record that's hard to bet against. The Falcons ought to win by at least one score, a field goal or a touchdown.
Still, this is a hard game to bet on, period. It's tough to analyze and come out with a definitive winner, but Atlanta's strengths outweigh all their weaknesses going into this battle. As long as the defense plays up to par and Matt Ryan is his usual self, the Falcons will be soaring on toward the Super Bowl and awaiting the winner of the Seahawks vs. Bears game.