It wasn’t without drama, but the Green Bay Packers have held to Aaron Rodgers’ word and have run the table. Now, they’re in the 2017 NFC Championship Game. That will take them to the Georgia Dome on Sunday where they will face off with the Atlanta Falcons. These two high-powered offenses that have been rolling through the postseason, but only one can survive for a berth in Super Bowl 51.
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Rodgers has been lights-out since his proclamation and so too then have been the Packers. Their offense has been near infallible, which they showed in the final minute of their Divisional Round win over the Dallas Cowboys. The deep bomb to Jared Cook that led to the game-winning Mason Crosby field goal was transcendent and indicative of the level of performance they’ve displayed for over two months now.
Meanwhile, Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense have been on another planet all season. Along with Rodgers, the two quarterbacks are two of the leading MVP candidates. However, what’s been interesting has been the up-and-down defense of the Falcons. While they’ve found themselves in plenty of shootouts, they’ve also shown the ability to generate a pass-rush and create opportunistic turnovers.
As these two teams fight for the right to play in the Big Game, here are the keys to victory.
Though the Cowboys offense was able to fight back and erase a dominant Packers lead, one thing Dallas wasn’t able to do throughout the game was rush the passer. When you’re up against Rodgers, that’s a death sentence. The MVP-candidate is at his best when he’s able to move around in the pocket and create times as he basically is out at the school yard picking on the kids (a.k.a. defensive players) who aren’t on his level. However, the Falcons have the league’s sack leader in Vic Beasley and a solid pass rush, even with Adrian Clayborn out injured. Subsequently, pressuring Rodgers will be bigger than anything that the Falcons do offensively.
Obviously the Packers defense has seen their share of troubles this season. And there’s no way that they are going to be able to keep the Falcons offense wholly in check. More specifically, I don’t see a chance that they’re ultimately able to limit big plays from Ryan, Julio Jones, and the Falcons passing attack. While that may be the case, what they need to do is limit what Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are able to do in the running game. You can get burned, but you can’t let that happen and allow the Falcons control the clock with the running attack. Therefore, the Packers have to be stout in the front seven and limit the effectiveness of Freeman and Coleman.
Point Spread: Atlanta -4.5 Moneyline: Atlanta -205, Green Bay +175 Over/Under: 60
When these two teams met in the regular season, the game was decided by one point in favor of the Falcons. While the Packers are much hotter now, Atlanta too has only gotten better this season. Subsequently, I don’t expect the outcome to not be similarly closely decided. However, I have a bit more faith in the Atlanta defense to cause the Packers problems. They may have run the table up to now, but I don’t think it lasts until the Super Bowl. Instead, the Falcons emerge victorious and punch the first ticket to Houston, awaiting the AFC’s champion.
Prediction: Green Bay Packers: 28, Atlanta Falcons: 33