I was incredibly worried about the Falcons playing the Packers in the NFC Conference Championship, for reasons that had everything to do with Aaron Rodgers. As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about, as the Falcons went up 24-0 at halftime, keeping Rodgers in check, and ultimately winning 44-21. It was a tremendously lopsided game, one that gave the Packers plenty of reason to do some soul-searching in the offseason.
They didn’t, in my opinion, address some of the most significant issues that led to that loss. There’s still no tremendous ground game here, though Ty Montgomery looks promising, and they won’t be able to punish Atlanta’s defense the same way Chicago did with a combination of Jordan Howard’s power and balance and Tarik Cohen’s dangerous speed. They’ve arguably gotten weaker along the offensive line, where T.J. Lang and JC Tretter left in the offseason. And the defense that couldn’t keep the Falcons from putting up 44 points made only modest improvements in the offseason.
Of course, the Falcons have changed, too, and after one week they certainly didn’t look quite as explosive on the offensive side of things. That and a healthy respect for Aaron Rodgers will get you the current line for this game, which makes the Falcons a favorite by about a field goal. Nothing about last year’s NFC Conference Championship game would suggest it should be that close, but Vegas must not have loved Atlanta’s offseason or their Week 1 performance.
I’m bullish on the Falcons winning this, but there are plenty of reasons to be hesitant about big, bold predictions, so it seems like a fair enough line. May the Falcons pleasantly surprise.