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NFL Championship Weekend Preview
Championship Week has arrived, and the stakes couldn’t be higher as the final four remaining teams battle for a trip to Super Bowl LI.
If you aren’t ready for Championship Weekend after last week’s Divisional Round, you might want to check your pulse.
NFC Championship Game
- Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons
- Sunday January 22 3:05 p.m. ET
- Georgia Dome, Atlanta GA
- Line: Falcons -6
Championship Weekend kicks off with a bang as the Atlanta Falcons, who were the top offense in the NFL this season takes on arguably the hottest team in the league right now in the Green Bay Packers.
The Falcons will host the NFC Championship game following a impressive all-around victory against the Seattle Seahawks last weekend. Matt Ryan carried his MVP-style season into the playoffs lighting up the ‘Legion of Boom’ for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
.@AaronRodgers12's throw vs. Dallas the best one he's ever made?
"No…I've made better ones."
— NFL (@NFL) January 19, 2017
Their opponent, the Green Bay Packers advanced to the NFC Championship game following a last second field goal off the leg of Mason Crosby following a beautiful throw and catch combination from Aaron Rodgers to Jared Cook to bring them into field goal range. With Aaron Rodgers on top of his game and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan playing at an MVP level, the first game on Sunday could very well be an old fashioned shoot out.
Packers vs. Falcons.
30 seconds left.
Toss it to @Mo_12_Sanu for the win!
— NFL (@NFL) January 19, 2017
These two teams met during the regular season, and a shoot out ensued. It was a widely entertaining game that ended with Matt Ryan finding Muhamad Sanu for the game winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. Both Ryan and his counterpart Aaron Rodgers have ice running through their veins in the closing moments of ball games, and this game could go to the team that has the ball last.
History seems to be on the Packers side, as they have have had the Falcons number lately. The Packers have won four of the last five meetings between the two. This is the fourth time the Packers and Falcons will play with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, with the Packers winning two out of the three games. In the playoffs have had much more success than the Falcons, as the Packers own a .618 winning percentage in the playoffs while the Falcons are only .400.
— NFL (@NFL) January 21, 2017
In order to contain Aaron Rodgers, the Falcons need to hope to keep him in the pocket. When Aaron Rodgers has the chance to roll out and extended plays, he makes plays happen. The Falcons defensive ends, Tyson Jackson and Brooks Reed, will be the most important players on the Falcons defense on Sunday, as it will be their job to contain Rodgers to the pocket. If those two cannot contain Rodgers, look for Vic Beasley Jr. and his NFL-leading 15.5 sacks to shadow Rodgers when he gets outside the tackle box. Outside of the pocket this postseason, Rodgers QB rating is an eye-popping 148.8, which is 90 points higher than the other playoff quarterbacks combined.
One of the advantages the Atlanta Falcons hold over the Packers is health. The Falcons handed in a blank sheet of paper on Friday for their injury report, while the Packers had seven players on theirs. Wide receiver is a position of concern for the Packers as Jordy Nelson (ribs), Davante Adams (ankle) and Geronimo Allison (hamstring) are all going to be game-time decisions. Safety Morgan Burnett (quad) and cornerback Quinten Rollins (concussion) will also be game-time decision. Running back James Starks (concussion) and center/guard JC Tretter (knee) have already been ruled out.
In order for the Packers to attempt to slow down the Falcons prolific offense, they need to play a complete game. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are one of, if not the best quarterback-wide receiver duos in the league, and even if you manage to slow down Ryan in the passing game, there is the Devonta Freeman–Tevin Coleman running back duo to deal with. The key to keeping up with their offense will be creating turnovers, as the Falcons are going to get their yards one way or another. The Packers had a +8 turnover ratio and need to win the turnover battle to advance to Super Bowl LI.
Prediction: Packers 34 Falcons 31- A high scoring affair seems all but imminent and although this will be a back and forth battle, Aaron Rodgers will once again pull off heroics in the closing seconds to pull off a trip to Super Bowl LI trip. Don’t be surprised to see an overtime game.