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Four Critical Matchups In The Falcons-Packers Game

Look, we all know this isn't going to be easy.

The Packers are a tough football team. They eat nails for breakfast and crap iron paperweights. I'm not denying any of that, and as I've said, it's going to be tough for the Falcons to walk off the Georgia Dome turf with a win. It's not impossible, though.

As is my Saturday custom, I've compiled a list of four matchups that could and perhaps will affect the outcome of the game. Each one pits a player against a player in an epic hypothetical deathmatch. Or something very close to it.

We'll spend a lot of tomorrow discussing the Pack during the game, so let's just jump right into the matchups. You'll find them after the jump.

Jordy Nelson vs. Kelvin Hayden/Chris Owens

My assumption is that Kelvin Hayden will get the bulk of the nickel corner snaps, which means he's going to be facing off against Jordy Nelson. Honorable mention to Chris Owens, who will probably get some snaps there.

Nelson doesn't play outside, but he's been arguably the Packers' most dangerous receiver thus far in 2011. In four games to start the season, he's amassed 15 catches, 292 yards and 3 touchdowns. That's 19.5 yards per reception, in case you were wondering.

The problem is that while Nelson has enough talent to play outside, he's going mostly inside against a Falcons defense that is pretty rigid when it comes to lining up its corners. That means Hayden or Owens will have to step up big-time to contain Nelson. They're capable, but this is going to be a challenge.

Tony Gonzalez vs. Charlie Peprah/Morgan Burnett/Any Linebacker

The Packers have a tough defense, and while their secondary may be weak this season, they're still matching two quality cornerbacks up against Roddy White and Julio Jones. It's when you get to Tony Gonzalez that the mismatches really occur.

There's nobody on this roster that can effectively cover Gonzo for four quarters. Charlie Peprah and Morgan Burnett aren't spectacular safeties, and neither is big and physical enough to do the job. While the Packers have quality linebackers up and down the roster, Desmond Bishop is the closest thing they have to a capable cover 'backer.

Gonzo's been geared up all season and an invaluable weapon in the red zone, to boot. I just don't see the Packers putting a lid on him all game, and it's a matchup the Falcons will want to exploit early and often.

Jonathan Babineaux vs. T.J. Lang

The Packers have somewhat of an inconsistent line, one that doesn't always perform exceptionally well as a unit. That said, they have outstanding individual pieces, guys like right guard Josh Sitton and left tackle Chad Clifton. There are two spots they can be exploited.

The first is right tackle, where the Packers will be pressing either rookie Derek Sherrod or equally young tackle Marshall Newhouse into service. If the Falcons lined up John Abraham against either, that would be an enormous mismatch. As it is, Ray Edwards and Kroy Biermann should do well, but neither has truly excelled thus far in 2011.

But I see Babineaux against T.J. Lang as a bigger mismatch. Lang hadn't started a game in his career until this season and is not the most capable pass protector on the team. Assuming Babineaux is healthy enough to play, he'll be healthy enough to push the pocket. A guy like Lang is going to struggle to contain Babs, who is legendarily big, fast and powerful for a defensive tackle.

If the USS Babineaux destroys Lang, the rest of the line should have a great game, too.

Matt Bosher vs. Randall Cobb

Until Bosher starts consistently booming his punts, he's an evergreen candidate here.

Randall Cobb is straight up dangerous on returns with his elusiveness, so you can probably guess that I'm a little wary about this one. I don't really have much more to say.

What are your four most critical matchups?