Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Packers earned the right to visit Atlanta with a wild-card round victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Packers jumped out to a 14-3 lead in that game, relying on its always-stout defense and a new-found running game to grind the Eagles to a halt.

Atlanta earned a first-round bye by virtue of its NFC-best 13-3 record in the regular season — a mark that included a win over Green Bay in Atlanta. The Falcons are hoping to use the same rowdy home-field edge their division rival, the Saints, did last season en route to the Super Bowl.

OFFENSE
Offensively, Atlanta’s game plan will be very similar to last weeks game. They will challenge the Packers’ manhood and try to stuff the football down their throats. They like RG Harvey Dahl climbing to the second level to maul A.J. Hawk and they like FB Ovie Mughelli on Zombo or Walden if they can get Cullen Jenkins sealed with Sam Baker and a tight end. They will have to mix some things up in order to get Roddy White free in the passing game. They’ll likely throw on some running downs and try to free him out of some run formations. Look for the Falcons to move him around in order to get a match-up they like.

DEFENSE
On defense, look for the Falcons to get physical with the Packer receivers and try to force them outside and away from the slant routes.  They are not too impressed with James Starks because he’s a North-South runner with little wiggle. They like Curtis Lofton stuffing him in the hole if their tackles, Corey Peters and Jonathan Babineaux can get some penetration. They felt they didn’t tackle well against the receivers last time and know they must play tighter coverage. If Rodgers has some time, the double move routes could be open.

What did New Orleans do in the last game that gave the Falcons trouble?

Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was able to successfully stop the Falcons by bracketing both Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Malcolm Jenkins, a converted safety, was the key. They basically dared Michael Jenkins to beat one on one coverage and that rarely happened. They used an assortment of rolling zones to keep the receivers in check once they controlled the threat of the run game. It was a quite complicated scheme.

PREDICTIONS
The Falcons have stressed tackling all week, which could mean they are coming after Aaron Rodgers. He is going to have to make quick throws to his wide receivers Donald Driver and Greg Jennings on slants to get the ball out because there is going to be some pressure. The Falcons have to tackle quickly and not let quick throws turn into long runs.

Corners Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes are going to play at times inside the shoulders of Driver and Jennings and take away the slants with leverage. We’ll know pretty early how the Falcons are going to deal with Rodgers, and he is going to get some unscouted looks from the Falcons; a blitz of the Day that has been cooked up for a week!

The Falcons are going to mix it up. Safety blitz, linebacker blitz, corners pressing, corners back. The Packers’ pass game, just from the statistics, should blow up Atlanta, but there are plays to be made.

RED ZONE
The Packers have been the better team in the red zone this season because Rodgers can make plays with his feet. He is more mobile than Ryan, which is why the Packers have the edge at this position (even if Ryan wins a lot of games at home). If the Packers get inside the 20 four times, Atlanta has to force a couple of field goals. That’s going to be a big deal in this game.

OVERALL
The Packers have the better quarterback.

They have better wide receivers.

When they throw the ball their completions are longer.

But it is all about turnovers and penalties. This is why the Falcons have the edge over the Packers.  Granted, Green Bay plays in Minnesota every year, which is inside and buttoned up for noise. The Packers can handle a little racket, but the season suggests Atlanta makes fewer mistakes than the Packers…

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