Saturday, January 15, 2011

Packers ready to clip Falcons' wings

Tonight is the night. The night the lights go out in Georgia. The night the Green Bay Packers get one step closer to Super Bowl XLV. Tonight is the night the 6th-seeded Packers take down the #1-seeded Atlanta Falcons.

Yes, the Falcons are favored by 1 point. Big whoop. And all the analysis has been offered: who has the better running game, special teams, QB, defense, receivers, etc. And the record of first-round bye teams winning their divisional games versus Wild Card winners is rather impressive. Plus, we all know how great Atlanta and QB Matt Ryan are at home. Throw in Michael "The Burner" Turner as the featured running back and the Dirty Birds are a handful.

But so are the Packers. Especially now. The Packers handed a victory to the Falcons in their earlier meeting, blowing goal-line opportunities and failing to tackle Turner. A few inopportune penalties sealed the deal with a narrow closing-seconds loss. It was the modus operandi for all the Packers losses. That was then. This is now.

Now, over the past month, the Packers have been playing at a different level. They are as healthy as they've been all season. Which doesn't mean they don't miss all the starters who went out early and often and onto injured reserve. But the players that have been plugged in have stepped up. Big time. The Packers defense is #5 in the NFL overall. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best quarterback in the league right now after Tom Brady according to various sports pundits. Special teams has been consistent, something they weren't early in the season. And now, perhaps, the Pack has found a running back in rookie James Starks. If he does even half as well versus the Falcons as he did against the Eagles it will go a long way to helping the Packers leave Atlanta with a victory.

Look for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to devise a scheme which will keep Michael Turner from chewing up yards and clock -- something they were unable to do last time. In Atlanta's three losses, Turner was held in check; the Pack needs to do that as well in order to win. Accomplishing that, occasional pressures on Matt Ryan will also help do the trick. On the offensive side of things, rush with Starks and let Rodgers and the receiving corps exploit the Falcons' secondary. As for special teams, just don't blow it...what more can you say?

This will be a close game, as the two teams are very well matched. The Falcons are rested. But the Packers are hot. Look for the Pack to stay on a roll.

We're calling this game 24-20 Packers.

Go Pack Go!!!