This Sunday, January 22, the Atlanta Falcons will host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. The victor of the sure to be exciting game will represent the NFC against the AFC Champion in the Super Bowl. With these high stakes in mind, let’s preview this highly anticipated game.
A major factor in the high expectations for the game is the matchup at the quarterback position. In one corner, you have the AP First Team All-Pro and Probable MVP, Matt Ryan, who has set multiple NFL records this season and leads the highest scoring offense in the league. In the other corner, you have the King of the Hail Mary and one of the best talents ever at quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, who has led the Packers in the famous “Run the Table” stretch late in the season to take back the NFC North from the Lions and strive for the Super Bowl.
In the regular season matchup between the Falcons and Packers, Ryan and Rodgers combined for 534 passing yards and 7 touchdowns with no turnovers in an offensive shootout that ended in a 33-32 Falcons victory. The Falcons were able to come away victorious thanks to a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu in the final minute of the game.
Further examining the statistics of the first matchup, it’s easy to see that the teams were evenly matched. Neither team turned the ball over, Atlanta only notched one more first down than Green Bay (25 to 24), and Green Bay only held an advantage on time of possession by 2 minutes and 34 seconds.
From the stellar quarterback play of Ryan and Rodgers of late and the tight contest of the previous game between the two teams, it’s very likely this will be a high scoring game that will come down to the wire.
In order for the Falcons or the Packers to advance to the Super Bowl, the team’s defenses must stand tall at some point throughout the game. A turnover or quick three and out is necessary to allow the offenses to strike and take the lead. Unfortunately, neither team’s defense is elite and has the ability the completely shut these two high powered offenses. However, football is a game of inches, and if the Falcons or Packers defense can make one play or series of plays to force the other team to play from behind, then they have a better chance of winning. Both defenses have play makers and talent, it just depends if they can hold strong at the right moments.
Another factor to consider for the game is the home field advantage (or dome-field advantage) for Atlanta. In last week’s playoff game when the Falcons hosted the Seahawks, the stadium was rocking with thousands of passionate Atlanta fans. This certainly had an impact on the game, as evidenced by the crucial mistake of a Seattle offensive lineman stepping on Russell Wilson’s foot, causing the quarterback to fall into the endzone for a Safety. This play swung momentum in favor of Atlanta, and lead to the Falcons taking the lead on the ensuing drive. With this game being the last game ever played in the Georgia Dome and the NFC Championship, I’m sure the crowd will be heard throughout the metro area.
This game could go either way. It majorly depends on if the two high scoring offenses can keep up with one another, and if the defenses can stand tall at key moments in the game.
As a biased Falcon fan, I predict the Falcons to come away with a win by a score of 38-35. The game will definitely be close, and could solely depend on who gets the last possession.