The Line: Atlanta by three

Atlanta’s Keys to the Game: For the Falcons, it’s all about defense.  They rank 5th in points scored and 16th in YPG on offence, and with the three-headed beat of Ryan, Turner and White, their offense is set as long as they keep doing their thing.  The defense, however, will be tasked with stopping Aaron Rodgers and his arsenal of targets.  Pressure will be key, and it will have to come from their front four as much as possible.  Coincidentally, they are 5th in the league in points allowed (18) and 16th in yards allow per game (332.4).  However, they rank 22nd against the pass, and against the Packers, that’s not good enough.  They will give up yards- that’s a given against a Packers team averaging nearly 360 YPG- but if it makes enough big plays, they can swing the game in Atlanta’s favor.

Green Bay’s Keys to the Game: They need to run the ball like they did against Philadelphia.  They are playing in a nice, warm, non-windy dome, so Aaron Rodgers can expect to work the Falcons secondary in better conditions than he had in Philly.  If they can run the ball even moderately well against a strong Falcons run defense, it will open up play action passing and force linebackers to try to prevent the run instead of dropping into coverage.  James Starks had a game that in not receiving a lot of press because of Marshawn Lynch, but the Falcons defense noticed it and will do their best to shut him down.

My Pick: When Green Bay and Arizona’s high-powered offences clashed in the playoffs, it was the highest scoring playoff game in history, and it was decided by a big play on defense.  Look for a similar result here, with Alanta taking it.  Atlanta 35, Green Bay 30.

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