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Falcons defense vs. Packers offense: who wins?

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We all think we know how this matchup will turn out. Could the Falcons defense surprise us? Maybe?

Green Bay Packers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This Sunday, the two hottest offenses in the NFL meet in Atlanta for the NFC Championship. The Green Bay Packers have been on fire since Aaron Rodgers said the team would run the table and have gone 8-0 in that span behind some absolutely stellar play from Aaron Rodgers, and the Atlanta Falcons have been on fire all season due to the elite play of Matt Ryan and the versatility the team has shown in attacking opposing defenses.

Whenever two offenses like this meet, it usually means bad things for the defenses. Let’s find out if that will be the case this Sunday.

In the trenches

Aaron Rodgers gets a ton of credit for his play, as he should, but his offensive line has been great all season long. The combination of David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga on the edges has been one of the best in the NFL in pass protection. Corey Linsley also has been a very reliable piece at center for Green Bay. The only real weak link on the Packers’ offensive line is Lane Taylor at left guard, as he is rated as an average player at his position, but T.J. Lang continues to be a foundational piece to the success of the Green Bay offense.

This game will be very different than last week for the Falcons defensive line. Green Bay knows what it has on the offensive line when all five guys are healthy—a couple of their guys were banged up against Dallas but appear to be practicing this week—and Seattle . . . did not. I expect Atlanta to struggle to get consistent pressure on Rodgers when they rush four, especially if they limit the number of stunts or twists they use this game, or if they have to use Vic Beasley as a spy on Rodgers. Grady Jarrett and Jonathan Babineaux will both need to be study in the middle while maintaining rushing lanes, coupled with a disciplined rush from Brooks Reed, Dwight Freeney, and Vic Beasley in order to contain Rodgers and limit his ability to create plays. That’s a tough task for 60 minutes.

Advantage: Green Bay Packers

Skill positions

Luckily, this matchup will be a little more favorable for the Falcons, especially since a couple of the top receivers for the Packers are limited in some capacity this week. Jalen Collins, Robert Alford, and Brian Poole have each stepped up in a big way the last few weeks, and Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal continue to play as a very reliable safety duo. A large portion of this game will come down to the young linebackers of Atlanta and their ability to cover slot receivers, running backs, and crossing/underneath routes. Rodgers is very capable of picking apart a zone scheme so the Falcons may opt to play more man to man and force Green Bay receivers to create separation. I feel confident in the ability of Atlanta’s secondary to make it tough on Rodgers and force some tight throws when they are in man coverage, unless Rodgers gets two minutes to throw or create on his own.

Randall Cobb is a very versatile, reliable option that the Packers like to move all over the field. He is the only normal member of the Packers receiving corps that is not experiencing some form of injury: Jordy Nelson is still considered a long shot to play due to a rib injury, Davante Adams has an ankle injury and isn’t expected to practice until Saturday, and Geronimo Allison is nursing a hamstring injury but is expected to be able to play. Ty Montgomery has become a solid threat in both the running and passing game that can create some real matchup issues for the Falcons. Jared Cook is a very underrated tight end and one of Rodgers’s favorite targets, as demonstrated by the last drive in the game against Dallas.

If Atlanta was playing any other team that had these wide receivers with these injuries, I would give the advantage to the Falcons, hands down. However, Atlanta is playing Aaron Rodgers and, as he said in his press conference earlier in the week, they have won without those guys before. I think Atlanta’s secondary makes it tougher than Dallas did for Rodgers and company to move the ball due to better coverage downfield. Looking just at the receivers, defensive backs, and running backs, I’ll give Atlanta the edge.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

Conclusion

I’m not sure if you could tell but I really wanted to make that last matchup a “push” because of how incredibly good Aaron Rodgers is. He will cover up a lot of the struggles that his receivers may have when it comes to creating separation with Atlanta’s defense, and his ability to throw on the run and get outside the pocket will make the defense’s job that much tougher. This is going to be an offensive game but I have a gut feeling that the Falcons defense may make some plays that surprise us. Nonetheless, Rodgers will do what he does and make the job incredibly difficult for Atlanta’s defense. If the Falcons can generate some form of pressure on him and, somehow, limit his escapability, they have a chance to slow him down enough to give the offense the time they need to create a solid lead, but if not, this one may come down to who has the ball last.

Advantage: Green Bay Packers