The Atlanta Falcons have had a remarkable season, but it won’t be viewed as a huge success unless they win Sunday’s game. Odds suggest the Falcons should do exactly that, but when it comes to Aaron Rodgers, you simply never know. He has the ability to carry a mediocre, injury-riddled team to the Super Bowl, and unless the Falcons play their very best, he might shock the football world and continue his ridiculous run.
Like every other team left in the playoffs, the Falcons have several areas of concern entering Sunday’s showdown. Granted, their worries are a bit smaller than Green Bay’s but the Falcons are far from a perfect team.
Here are three things that should worry the Falcons against the Packers in the NFC Championship game.
Ty Montgomery’s versatility
We all know the story with Ty Montgomery. He’s a converted wide receiver who has thrived in his new role at running back. He’s not an every-down back who will tote the rock 25 times per game, but when he does touch the ball, defenders have to be weary of where he is. Montgomery is one of the most versatile players in this game and can do a multitude of things, from running between the tackles to splitting out wide as a receiver. And knowing the injuries Green Bay has at wide receiver, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Packers use him more on the outside.
Deion Jones is a good matchup for Montgomery, possessing terrific speed and instincts. He won’t contain the versatile back alone, though. The Falcons have to be cognizant of where Montgomery lines up on every play, whether it’s with Jones in coverage or Keanu Neal shading him from his safety spot. Montgomery has a chance to put up decent numbers if the Packers don’t abandon the run right away.
Julio Jones’ foot injury
I know, Julio Jones has said he’ll be ready to go on Sunday. He’s missed back-to-back days of practice due to a lingering foot injury, but yet both he and Dan Quinn are going forward with the assumption that he’ll be on the field against the Packers. That’s obviously great for Atlanta, but should the Falcons still be worried about his health? Absolutely. Jones simply hasn’t been himself since he suffered the injury and was forced to miss Week 14 and 15.
In the three games since he returned, Jones has caught 17 passes for 223 yards and two touchdowns (5.7 catches and 74 yards). Those would be good numbers for an average receiver, but Jones isn’t average. He’s arguably the best in the NFL when healthy. Seven times this season Jones had at least 100 yards receiving. He hasn’t done that since Week 13, which is when he hurt his foot. Coincidence? I think not. The Falcons have to go into this game with the notion that Jones isn’t fully healthy, but can still take advantage of the extra attention he’s going to draw.
Aaron Rodgers’ wizardry
If the Falcons are going to lose this game, it’ll be because of Aaron Rodgers making some serious magic. He’s going to be the best player on the field Sunday, and that’s including Matt Ryan. Rodgers is simply playing out of his mind, going on a run that has rarely been matched in NFL history. In his past nine games, he’s thrown 24 touchdowns and one interception, consistently doing things that few other quarterbacks would be able to.
The Packers are one-dimensional offensively, which will allow the Falcons to focus most of their attention on Rodgers, but that won’t make it easy to stop him, per se. He’s still going to make jaw-dropping throws, and he’s still going to escape the pocket to make defenders pay with his creativity. There’s really no way to completely avoid those things, which has to worry the Falcons most. It might just be a matter of Rodgers being an unstoppable force that no defense can contain. The Giants couldn’t, nor could the Cowboys.