Sunday, November 28, 2010

Packers vs. Falcons Preview

Happy Dirty Birds Day to you, Packer fans! No, I'm not referring to the recent day on which you dropped turkey on the kitchen floor after carving, tossed it back on the plate, and then served it to your relatives. I'm talking about today's game in Atlanta between our Green Bay Packers and the Falcons.

The Falcons are coming into the game with a NFC-leading 8-2 record, with the Pack at 7-3. Atlanta is favored by 2 points.

The Birds fly high in their dome. They are 18-3 at home over the last three seasons. This team is not like the last two teams the Pack has faced. They are good and they won't quit on their coach the way those teams did. Statistically (you can look elsewhere today for that info if you are a stat geek), the Packers and Falcons are fairly close in many areas. However, the Packers have an overall better defense, particularly in the secondary. That is an area that will need to execute well today, as they have been doing, for the Packers to come out on top. WR Roddy White leads the league in receptions, if memory serves, and is up there in reception yards as well, not surprisingly. Expect the Packers to likely have CB Tramon Williams on White most of the time, although they may shift Williams and Charles Woodson around as needed so that rookie safety Sam Shields isn't stuck on an island against White.

The Falcons also have veteran TE Tony Gonzalez as a receiving threat and RB Michael Turner as the featured rusher. Gonzalez is still dangerous, despite perhaps losing a step, and Turner is quick and powerful and can move the chains and eat clock. The Packers' defensive line has handled running backs all season long and I expect them to bottle up Turner today as well; he may get some yards, but as long as they don't allow him to break long runs or get 5+ yards per carry, it will be OK. QB Matt Ryan is similar to the Packers' own Aaron Rodgers: cerebral, strong arm, and generally won't make mistakes.

So, if the Packers' defense can continue to do what they have been doing, and special teams holds its own, it comes down to the offense executing its game plan. The Packers have more weapons in the receiving game and they are going against a 24th-ranked passing defense. So if the offensive line gives Rodgers time and he's on his game, the Pack have the advantage. But expect a closer game than we've seen recently.

This is a game which will tell us a great deal about how good the Packers really are. As fans, we are all beginning to think they are very good. A win in Atlanta today will reinforce that perception. More importantly, though, it will also go a long way to helping determine homefield advantage in the playoffs. If the Pack plucks this one away from the Falcons, things are looking rosy.*

I'm calling this one 27-24 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!

* Rosy reference: Have to give a shout out to the University of Wisconsin Badgers who finished their regular season yesterday with a 70-23 beat down of the Northwestern Wildcats at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. The currently 7th-ranked Badgers share the Big Ten championship title, and should receive the bid for the Rose Bowl. Go Badgers!