By Don Stone - Football Atlanta
If you look for signs to determine outcome, the you would be very happy with
all of the indicators that point to an Atlanta win in this NFC Championship
1. The way the season ended - There were many things that had to
happen for the Falcons to get a first round bye and host a playoff game.
After the last second loss to Kansas City, Tampa Bay was in a virtual tie
with Atlanta. Atlanta never lost after that. But, they needed the Bucs to
falter to control the division. The Bucs beat the Chargers and Saints, then
fell apart with losses at Dallas and New Orleans. Atlanta kept winning. On
Christmas Eve, they needed three things to happen. First, they won at
Carolina clinching the NFC South title. They needed Tampa Bay to lose at New
Orleans immediately after and they did. Then, they needed the improbable to
happen. Arizona had to beat the Seahawks in Seattle to move Atlanta into the
#2 seed. The Cardinals won letting the Falcons have a first round bye and
host the Division Round of the playoffs.
Ironically, they got the Seahawks, whom they had lost to earlier in the
season. Then, two things had to happen for Atlanta to stay at home and host
the NFC Championship Game. First, of course, they had to beat Seattle. And
they did in convincing fashion, 36-20, and it wasn't that close. But, even
then, they were expecting to go on the road to face Dallas, who was the
favorite to beat Green Bay. But, that happened as well. On a last second
miracle finish, the Packers knocked off the Cowboys moving the game to
Atlanta instead. And, here they sit.
2. Injuries. Of course, the Falcons have some key players out. They lost
Desmond Trufant and Jacob Tamme earlier in the season and didn't
seem to miss a beat. They lost Adrian Clayborn in last week's playoff
win. Julio Jones is still working through the toe problem but seems
to be alright to play. Green Bay is another story. They look like a M.A.S.H.
unit coming into the game. Receivers Jordy Nelson suffered broken
ribs in the first round of the playoffs with the Giants and missed last
week's game at Dallas. He also had a virus that caused him to stay home
Friday. He reportedly will try to play wearing a military flak jacket. But
how effective he will be, if he plays at all, remains to be seen. Davante
Adams hurt his ankle and Geronimo Allison pulled a hamstring at
Dallas. Both are listed as questionable game time decisions. Former Georgia
Tech safety Morgan Burnett pulled a thigh muscle at Dallas but
supposedly will be available. All four remained questionable after practice
Saturday, which means they have a 1 percent to 50 percent chance of playing.
Running back Christine Michael was questionable with a back injury
after Saturday's practice. But, the pregame inactive list had none of them
on it. So, apparently, they will try to play. If they can't, the team will
The Green Bay secondary is already a liability ranked 26th in the league.
And Matt Ryan lit them up for three touchdowns and nearly 400 yards
in the teams' previous meeting this season. The have been decimated by
injuries more than any other secondary this season. No. cornerback Sam
Shields missed most of the season with No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks
Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall struggling all year with
nagging injuries. So, all of that could be a key factor or much ado about
3. Travel and Fatigue. No one could fault the Packers if they are
tired. With an early season bye week, they have now played for thirteen
straight weeks. After the home game against New York, they had to travel
least week to Dallas for a Sunday game, go back to Green Bay, then fly to
Atlanta. All that time, the Falcons have been home with this their third
straight home game with a bye week mixed in. To top it off, the weather in
Green Bay grounded all flights on Saturday. So, following a morning
practice, the Packers took a bus to the airport, sat for two hours, then got
on another bus for a two hour ride to Milwaukee, getting them into Atlanta
at 8:00pm for a long day. Add to that the fact that a virus was going around
the Packers' camp late in the week. No word on who was affected besides
Nelson and Rodgers. But, something like that could have some effect as the
game goes on with loss of energy.
4. Overblown praise of Rodgers. Everyone, rightfully so, heaped
praise on Aaron Rodgers when he got the ball back with 35 seconds to
go and, on a third and 20, avoided overtime with a perfect pass to get his
team into game winning field goal range. But, nowhere, have I heard any
mention of the fact that Green Bay squandered a 21 point lead and were
outscored after that by Dallas 28-13 as they barely hung on to win. The fact
is, the Cowboys would have won if they had been more aggressive on offense
early on and had no dug themselves too deep a hole to crawl out of.
5. The Quinn-Rodgers connection. Dan Quinn had put his defense on
the field three times prior to this game and it didn't go well for Green
Bay. The Packers lost to the Falcons in Week 8 of the regular season.
Previously, in 2013 and 2014, Quinn was the defensive coordinator of the
Seattle Seahawks and beat Rodgers both times.
So, on the surface at least, the Falcons potent offense seems to be too
much for the Packer defense to keep up with. But it still should be a
shootout. The Vegas odds predicted a point total of 61. Even that could be
conservative. I see it as something like Atlanta 40, Green Bay 32. Anything
could happen with turnovers possibly being a key factor. If the Falcons do
pull it off and head to their second Super Bowl, the town will go bonkers.