Falcons host the Packers on Saturday Night Showdown!
Well Falcons fans, it’s time! The team has spent the past three seasons building a successful and stable franchise. It started with the hiring of GM Thomas Dimitroff, coach Mike Smith and the drafting of quarterback Matt Ryan.
In that first season the team went from the embarrassment of the NFL in 2007 to an 11-5 playoff team. Since that time, the Falcons have had three winning seasons in a row. That’s unheard of in Atlanta. They are sending seven players players to the Pro Bowl this season including the starting running back, wide receiver and defensive end. It’s a shame they won’t likely play due to preparing for the Super Bowl.
But that’s an expectation of a #1 seed in the NFC. That said, this weeks opponent Green Bay seems to be taking all the media hype and predictions in this NFL semi-final round. Being a Falcon isn’t easy. There are a lot of years of futility to overcome before the league will take you serious.
This weekends game features the #1 seed Falcons hosting the #6 seed Packers. Two teams that have already faced off this season once in a nail biter. The Falcons came out victorious in that first meeting, but none is more important than this game Saturday night.
If you listen to the pundits out there, the Falcons are the #6 seed and the Packers are the #1 team in the NFC. It’s like the regular season never happened and now that the playoffs have begun, Green Bay is the favorite. I’m no Bears fan but I understand their fans confusion. Did a bye week make the lower tier teams favorites?
One of the most common things I’ve been listening to is how the Green Bay Packers have a running game now. Seriously? Their young back has one good game and suddenly he’s spoken of like he’s been doing it all season. If it were a team from the South, the pundits would be preaching how it’s a league where you have to show consistency before you can be thought of as great. I suppose the playoffs erase that fact.
“I can’t hype anybody off one game,” said Falcons defensive end John Abraham. “You’ve got to show me more.”
“I think our run defense has done so well this year that I don’t think we’re going to put a check by his name right now,” Abraham said. “He wasn’t one of our people to worry about. We’re worrying about #12 (quarterback Aaron Rodgers) right now. That’s probably the main thing.”
It’s almost forgotten that Michael Turner is one of the best running backs in the NFL. So Green Bay gets a pass on having to defend Turner now? Alex Marvez from FOX Sports sat down with Turner and fullback Ovie Mughelli to discuss much the same topic.
“With our offense, they’ve got to stop the run if they even want to have a chance,” Falcons fullback Ovie Mughelli said. “They might load up another (defensive) lineman, bring a safety down, stunt their line to give us trouble. Whatever they do, we feel like we have the scheme and personnel to take care of it and do what we do best: run the ball.”
“Some guys say they want to rush for 2,500 yards or things like that,” Falcons running back Michael Turner said. “I don’t focus on a number. The numbers will take care of themselves if you’re playing hard and busting your tail week in and week out. My (goal) is to get our team into the playoffs and in position to win a Super Bowl.”
The bottom line is the Packers win last weekend created a hype. It’s quickly forgotten that the Pack got their ticket punched for the playoffs courtesy of a Tampa Bay loss to Detroit. Had the Bucs done what was expected of them, Green Bay would be reviewing draft boards and complaining about how Aaron Rodgers was slighted for the Pro Bowl. Ironically, as much coverage as Rodgers has been getting it’s overlooked that Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan did make that Pro Bowl roster.
Green Bay fans may be in for a treat however. If the Falcons do make it to the Super Bowl Rodgers can take Ryans spot the week before the Championship. I’m sure Ryan wouldn’t complain.
I’ve spent the week going through articles and interviews to get ideas for this article. I’ve posted many on the Falcons Roost, the Facebook page of choice for Falcons information. One stood out to me above others.
I found this one on the Packers.com site the other day. It was the team discussing Pro Bowler Eric Weems. He made the Pro Bowl based on his special teams tackles but his effect in the return game for the Falcons has been priceless. He ranks 3rd in the NFL with a 27.5 yards average on kick off returns and a 4th ranked 12.8 yards per return on punts. It’s been since the days of Tim Dwight that the Falcons showed signs of life in the return game. Weems hasn’t been overlooked by the enemy.
“Very dynamic, just like the rest of them,” defensive back Jarrett Bushsaid. “Hester, Jackson, great returners, and you can put Weems up there with them.
“He’s a little more aggressive, a little scrappier, but he is a great returner. We’ve got to go in there and have the same game plan, get the tackles we need to make, contain him, stay in our field lanes and just stay disciplined.”
Although he’s never mentioned by so called “experts” he has drawn the attention of the team looking to advance in the playoffs against him. It goes to show you that pencil pushers like myself focus on bigger names and tend to overlook those like Weems.
“He is a very valuable guy to their special teams,” special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. “He is a tough football player. I think he is a crafty runner. He sees the seams and he does a good job with that. His pure spirit, the guy gets after it in coverage and plays hard.”
I’m glad someone pointed it out for the kid. It’s a really a good article and I recommend everyone read it.
So lets get to the good stuff! It’s time to compare the two teams via numbers. If nothing else, numbers tell the truth. It’s the truth you seek when trying to solve a puzzle. Trying to determine who will win Saturday night is that gray area that numbers cannot resolve. However, they do stack the odds in one favor or another.
I’m going to post some predictions by previous said prognosticators. That’s why they play the game as they say but these guys love them some cheese! Here is a list of some I found online. ESPN – CBS SPORTS – FOX SPORTS - PROFOOTBALLTALK -
Green Bay- Steve Mariucci, Mike Mayock, Rod Woodson, Joe Thiesmann, Mike Golic, Ron Jaworski, Chris Mortensen, Adam Schefter, Mark Schlereth, Todd Wickersham, Dave Richard, Alex Marvez, Adam Schein, Peter Schrager, Adam Caplan, Josh Rosenthal and Mike Lombardi.
Atlanta - Deion Sanders, Jamie Dukes, Eric Allen, MerrilHodge, Pete Prisco, Clark Judge, Will Brinson, Josh Katzowitz, Jay Glazer, John Czarnecki, Mike Florio and Pat Kirwin.
There are more but my point is made. I still for the life of me can’t understand all the Packer love. Lets break down what’s so great about the two teams and see if we can’t figure some of this madness out.
GREEN BAY OFFENSE vs FALCONS OFFENSE
9th – Yards Per Game - 16th Yards Per Game
8th – 3rd down % - 3rd in 3rd down %
3rd – Penlaties - 1st Penalties
7th – Time of Possession - 2nd Time of Possession
10th – Scoring - 5th Scoring
So, offensively the two teams are pretty similar. Top 10 in the NFL in many of the yearly statistics. The Falcons hold the edge in most however. I didn’t want to post rushing totals because that’s not fair. The fact is Atlanta’s running game is dominant over Green Bays. So lets line up the players and stack up the edge.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Ryan
I was one of those people that felt like Rodgers was slighted for the Pro Bowl. He’s a great young QB. Although he lost the nod to Ryan I still feel like the Pro Bowl is all popularity so that means little. Doing more with less, Rodgers led his team without a running game. He does get the edge on a slightly better overall receiving core but Ryan has the edge on #1 receiver (White) and TE (Gonzalez). Donald Driver has the edge over Michael Jenkins.
Ryans strength is protecting the ball. He had 28 TDs to only 9 INTs and converted ten 4th down conversions. The Falcons stayed in the 50% area on third down and if it failed, were known to go for it. Rodgers is more apt to try the down-field big-play which cost him in the turnover battle. He had 28 TDs to 11 INTs. Still, a very strong average but consider the fact that Ryan 96 more passes on the season.
EDGE – Draw
Michael Turner vs. James Starks
No comparison. You’re talking about a top 3 running back in the NFL in Turner against a rookie with one good game.
EDGE – Falcons
Roddy White vs. Greg Jennings
Both quality receivers. Both are the preferred outlet of the quarterbacks. On the season, White led the NFL with 115 catches for 1,389 yards. His catches topped the NFL and yards ranked him 2nd in the NFL and first in the NFC this season.
Jennings ended the season with 76 catches for 1,285 yards and 12 touchdowns. His touchdown number beats out White by two. He’s a great receiver and should provide quite the match-up with Falcons corner Dunta Robinson. That said, he’s not even a top 10 receiver in the NFL and White is one of the best.
EDGE – Falcons
Tony Gonzalez vs Andrew Quarless
I won’t bother here. We all know the answer. Gonzalez is a Hall of Fame tight end and Quarless is a blocker.
EDGE – Falcons
So offensively it’s pretty one sided towards the Falcons. The wheels on the Cheese bus go round and round through Rodgers. The Falcons offense has a lot more depth that Green Bay. If Ryan were to go down, veteran Chris Redman can hand the ball to Turner just fine. So I don’t understand all the Green Bay hype. Perhaps it’s their defense. So lets rank those shall we?
GREEN BAY DEFENSE vs. ATLANTA DEFENSE
2nd Scoring defense - 5th Scoring defense
2nd Interception - 4th Interception
2nd Sacks - 20th Sacks
10th Time on Field - 3rd Time on Field
9th Contain 3rd down - 22nd Contain 3rd down
Again, those are stats that I believe are important. Can you keep the opponent from scoring? Can you force turnovers? Can you get off the field on 3rd downs? In these categories the Packers hold the cards. Overall, their defense has been a bright spot for the team. In the turnover battle both teams are close when you look at both interceptions and fumbles. The Falcons have recovered more fumbles but overall they are the same on total turnovers. The biggest difference in sacks. The Falcons are similar in sacks as the Packers are rushing. A huge gap.
The Falcons rely on the skills over John Abraham to get to the quarterback where as the Packers have several outlets. Now, Green Bay is known to blitz much more than Atlanta which could be the difference there but overall the Falcons are bend and don’t break. The Packers come after you and force the opposing QB to get rid of the ball or suffer.
Should be interesting considering Matt Ryan is the least sacked QB in the league. He also has a fantastic rating against the blitz. I love the match up and think this will be a very entertaining game. But when you’re reviewing a 10-6 team against a 13-3 team I’m going with the odds.
The Falcons are 7-1 at home this season and 20-2 in three seasons with Matt Ryan under center. He’s also beaten the Packers at home once this season and I see no reason that should change.
It will come down to the wire which is a Falcons favorite. They love to shuffle 8 defensive linemen to keep them fresh and by the fourth quarter they will be rested and prepared to finish the game. After four quarters of Michael Turner I’m not certain Green Bays defense can say the same thing.| 2010 ATLANTA FALCONS, 2010 nfl playoffs, Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers, matt ryan, NFL