When Green Bay is throwing: This is a game where home field advantage will be reversed. Flat-out speed kills and – even more so – superior receivers in general will take advantage of indoor conditions. If James Jones hadn’t have dropped that pass in Philly, the Packers would have scored 28. It still wasn’t the best performance I’ve seen from Aaron Rodgers, given the defense he was facing and the support Starks was giving. I don’t believe Aaron Rodgers is suffering after-effects of a concussion, so he is going to have an even better game than last week. The pass rush for Atlanta will be in full effect but I let’s remember: last year, McCarthy couldn’t win the re-matches against Arizona (was Capers awake in that booth?), Chicago, or Minnesota. This year, he’s won his second meetings against Philadelphia, Chicago, and Minnesota and would have beaten the Lions if not for his quarterback’s tumble. I like the coordinators for Atlanta, but the coaching edge is slightly with Green Bay and Atlanta is not deep enough at corner for all that the Packers have. Edge: Packers, strongly.
When Green Bay is running: Atlanta had probably one of the weakest schedules for opposing running backs, so they haven’t been tested. Of the top 8 running backs other than Michael Turner, they faced just two: no. 6 Rashard Mendenhall, and no. 7 Steven Jackson. Jackson was held to just 11 carries for 54 yards but Mendenhall went wild with 22 carries for 120 and 1 TD (though he got 50 on one attempt). Atlanta also allowed the Carolina Panthers to run for 349 yards in two games. Green Bay doesn’t need to run the ball but I’ll take the energized defensive line playing at home in this match-up. Edge: Atlanta, slightly.
When Atlanta is throwing: Green Bay had 47 sacks in the regular season (2 vs. Atlanta; they added three more in their playoff game), Atlanta had only 31 (1 vs. Green Bay). For skilled corners, Nick Collins, a strong pass rush and a smart coordinator, it will come down to eliminating Roddy White. He has more than double the yards the #2 receiver has for the Falcons. Edge: Packers, slightly.
When Atlanta is running: The Falcons have 3/8ths of their games against bottom 12 defenses. They never beat a team with a winning record by more than six points. Neither of these run defenses are great but – when you look at the bottom 20 -, the disparity between #13 and #32 is .5 yards a carry allowed (4.2 vs. 4.7). Also, the Pack (6 TD runs allowed) and the Falcons (9 TD runs allowed) are the only teams in the bottom 20 of ypc defense to allow single digit rushing touchdowns. Both run defenses are good where you need to be: the red zone. Late in a game, when behind, you’d like to be able to stop a ball-carrier so you can get the ball back. Michael Turner doesn’t have a great playoff history and will have an average day, but something tells me Snelling – who rarely gets carries – steps up and makes a big play. Edge: Atlanta, slightly.
PREDICTION: The Packers haven’t played their best ball yet and while the Falcons defense is fast and physical, the Cheese take it to two more levels: smart and playmaking (though Atlanta has a takeaway in every game). Aaron Rodgers has a career playoff day and it’s the Packers with 34, and the Falcons with 20.