Free NFL Pick: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons 01-15-2011

January 14, 2011

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Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

Saturday January 15th, 2011 8:00 PM EST

Line: Atlanta -3

Overview:

The Atlanta Falcons finished with the best record in the NFC. Even so, it seems as though they aren’t receiving much media attention. The Falcons came away with an NFC South title and took down the Green Bay Packers earlier in the season. Their 13-3 record was enough to earn them home field advantage throughout the playoffs, but will the extra week of preparation be enough to knock off the surging Packers?

The Green Bay Packers have had to fight for every single victory they have earned. Their running game suffered a major setback when Ryan Grant went down with a season ending injury in the very beginning of the season. Their targets in the passing game have been periodically and consistently incurring injuries throughout the season and even Aaron Rodgers suffered a concussion mid-season. All of this has added to their mystique. They have survived these injuries, among others this season. Even so, they are alive. They took down the Eagles last week, proving there is something scary about a team with an elite quarterback, the potential defensive player of the year, and nothing to lose.

Keys to the Game:

  • Roddy White will likely struggle this week. He has already been held in check for the most part since Week 10 and only amassed 49 yards in his last meeting with Charles Woodson. White has been a crucial part of the Atlanta offense. While he is still effective, he hasn’t been dominating football games like he did in the beginning of the season. It is safe to say he will probably be a non-factor in this one.
  • Clay Matthews has 13.5 sacks this season, with an additional sack being acquired last week against Michael Vick. He has been a force all season long and has single handedly taken over football games. Matthews can attack from either side and makes life a nightmare as the feature outside linebacker in Dom Capers’ defense. Matt Ryan is a great pocket passer. If Sam Baker and co. fail to block Matthews, they will make Saturday miserable for Ryan.
  • Michael Turner has to show up, especially if the Falcons fail to get the ball to Roddy White early on. He’s broken for over 100 yards seven times this season. The Falcons value the run game and feature a complete offense. Nothing will get going if they can’t feed Turner a healthy amount of carries early on. He has fresh legs going into this game, which should allow him to showcase just how lethal he can be.

Key Matchup:

Aaron Rodgers Vs. Matt Ryan

  • Aaron Rodgers didn’t make the Pro Bowl, but I’m sure a Super Bowl ring would be enough to help him through his grieving process. Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the game. Rodgers is trying to cement his legacy by leading a beaten and bruised Packer team through an adverse situation and to a Super Bowl victory. There are a lot of people who picked the Packers to make the Super Bowl after their showing last week. Rodgers is a big reason why.
  • Matt Ryan, like Rodgers, has a lot to prove in this game. He is a young quarterback who has an extremely bright future ahead of him. If he can make it to the NFC Championship in only his third year, the Falcons should consider this season a huge success. That being said, no quarterback strives to take their team to the Conference Championship. Both Rodgers and Ryan are gunning for Dallas.

Wrap Up:

The winner of the NFC is probably going to emerge from this game. The Falcons have dominated all season long, but the Packers have been obnoxious for opposing teams and simply won’t go away. Is Atlanta going to be able to dominate or will the Packers excel in the underdog role once again?



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