Week 12. Packers at Falcons. 17-17 with just under a minute left. Aaron Rodgers has just led a beautiful drive, resulting in a 4th down touchdown strike to Jordy Nelson to tie the game up. All the momentum is on the Packers side. And then…the wheels fall off. Mason Crosby kicks the ball off to return man Eric Weems who almost breaks one and is only slowed down because of a flagrant facemask call; still yet, they manage to start at the Green Bay 49 with about 50 seconds left. Matt Ryan leads the Falcons down the field and you know what happens next. 20-17 Atlanta. Game. Set. Match. It was a messy game marred with bonehead plays; will the 2nd go-round be any different?
Keys for the Packers
What I saw from the run game last week really and truly came out of left field. I’ve seen James Starks run this year, and his first game of the year, he rushed for over 70 yards and looked every bit the part of an NFL running back. Since then, he’s been somewhat in the coach’s doghouse, resulting in limited playing time. But the 123 yards he gained against Philly on Sunday were a sheer thing of beauty. If the Pack can get a similar total from their newly found workhorse, then they can open up that passing game even more for #12 (you may know him as Aaron Rodgers, perhaps?), and you know what that spells for the opposing defense. Speaking of Rodgers, he’s going to have to play lights out yet again. If he has an off-game in the playoffs, then the Packers don’t win. It’s really that simple. Lucky for him I don’t see that happening. Also, the defense needs to play like they did against the Eagles. A solid pass rush could spell doom for the Falcons. I expect the linebackers to have another big day against this offensive line, most notably Clay Matthews. If that happens, the Pack win another one.
Keys for the Falcons
Run. Run. Run. Michael Turner needs to rush for over 100 yards for the Falcons to put themselves in prime position to go to the NFC Championship Game. If he does do this, it’s going to be very hard for the Packers to win. Also, Matt Ryan needs to play well. I’m not saying he’s got to go out and throw 4 TDs, but a couple would be nice (unlike A-Rod, who pretty much has to play unbelievable every week for the Pack to get a victory. Advantage: Ryan). I believe he needs to be a game manager more than anything else. He’s doing what Rodgers was doing before the Philly game on Sunday: trying to win his first playoff game, so there might be some added pressure on Matty Ice’s shoulders. Lastly, they really have to limit themselves from turning the ball over. The Packers thrive on turnovers; in the regular season, they were 6th in the league in takeaways, so Atlanta needs to be aware of this and protect the ball.
I predicted the Pack would take down the Eagles last week in Philly. I felt they were riding a huge wave of momentum and that’s precisely what occured. In this one? It’s very tough to bet against a team that has had their backs against the wall for almost a month now. That’s where Green Bay has been. Because of this, I’m taking the hot hand. I think Rodgers has another tremendous game against this beatable secondary, and James Starks decides to string together back-to-back good rushing games. Also, I think Green Bay wins the takeaway battle and walks out of the Georgia Dome with a victory.
Green Bay – 27
Atlanta – 17