Early Bird Breakdown NFC Divisional Round – Packers @ Cowboys
Hello and welcome back to Early Bird Breakdown. It’s the NFC Championship and only four NFL teams remain with a chance to win the Super Bowl. Before diving into the game, let’s look at the recap from last week.
Last week Green Bay traveled down to Dallas and flew right out the gate to a 21-3 lead in Dallas. This caused Dallas to largely abandon the run until later in the game, looking like what would become an easy Packer victory. However rookie quarterback Dak Prescott looked very impressive and was able to navigate his team back to get it close and let the Cowboys re-balance their offensive gameplan with their running back Ezekiel Elliott. Then the game came down to a thrilling finish as both teams tied, Aaron Rodgers was able to get the Packers into field goal range and Crosby hit an awesome 56 yard field goal. The Cowboys answered right back with a field goal of their own, then when time was short Rodgers did this:
Mason Crosby then proceeded to hit a 51 yard field goal and here we are.
Packers’ Offense vs Falcons’ Defense:
Aaron Rodgers has the Packers offense firing on all cylinders and that should not change this week. While Atlanta’s defense looked good against Seattle, throughout the season they were Swiss cheese in the secondary. For a perspective, while healthy this season Atlanta’s pass defense gave up 266.7 yards per game and the injured Packers secondary gave up 269.3 yards per game. So Rodgers should be able to slice up this secondary, as even before the hot streak when they played the first time they scored 31 points. As long as the Packers can field enough players to catch the ball, they should surpass that mark.
The scary scenario for Green Bay is that they could be without Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, and Geronimo Allison all of whom are game time decisions. If any or all are out, McCarthy should experiment by moving Jared Cook more around the field as the Patriots do with their tight ends. The Packers also should consider going into an empty backfield and space Ty Montgomery out.
Packers’ Defense vs Falcons’ Offense:
The Packers defense will have its hands full this week. Atlanta was second this season in total yards, first in points-per-game, and had 422 yards against Seattle last week. Green Bay will have to watch out for Davante Freeman and Tevin Coleman, the two running backs for Atlanta. Both are elusive and speedy backs. Unlike Dallas, Atlanta’s offensive line is pretty good and not great. Mike Daniels will need to have a monster game against the run and the pass to slow down Atlanta’s offense. As long as the Packers linebackers form up, the backs are containable. As for the passing offense, the Packers will need to get pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan and force Ryan to throw off of his back foot which will lead to mistakes.
The biggest issue for the defense all season has been coverage, and this week is no exception. Julio Jones is the best receiver in the NFL and he will make his presence known. Green Bay has to put HaHa Clinton Dix as well as a corner on him on every play to have a chance at slowing him down.
Atlanta plays in a dome and weather will not be a factor.
In my opinion, based on how teams matchup against the Packers, Atlanta is the most difficult team for Green Bay remaining in the playoffs including the two teams squaring off in the AFC Championship. I was at Lambeau in 2015 when Julio Jones had 259 yards against the secondary when healthy. Atlanta is at home, motivated, and has the offense that can blow their way into the Super Bowl. However, the Packers have something special going on. They keep winning despite injuries and needing impossible throws from Rodgers, they make enough plays. I think this game plays out like last weeks turned up to 11, I think Green Bay jumps out quick with a score followed by Atlanta abandoning the run and scoring in bunches themselves. This game has all the makings of a classic shootout, and in a shootout you cannot pick against Rodgers in that scenario. Even with the Falcons healthier, even with Matt Ryan the favorite for the AP regular season award, even with the best wide receiver in football in Julio Jones, and even being at home, I have Green Bay winning 45-42.As always, go Pack go! Stu Weis -Journalism graduate 2012, Carroll University