The divisional round of the NFL Playoffs pits the Atlanta Falcons against a Green Bay team that overcame the Eagles last weekend.
Surprisingly healthy match-up Atlanta and Green Bay both suffered their fair share of problems with injuries in the regular season. Despite the brutal grind of that 16-game schedule and the Packers’ Wildcard game last week, both franchises look in good shape for Saturday night’s match-up. This won’t do much to help Super Bowl betting fans make their call as there is little to choose between the Falcons and Packers. Atlanta enters this game with a 7-1 record at home but the Packers have momentum on their side, having effectively played playoff Football for the last three weeks.
Matty Ice can’t afford to freeze Matt Ryan has led the Falcons to winning records in each of his three years in Atlanta. That’s pretty good for a player who inherited a team coming off a 4-12 finish the year before his rookie season. Now Ryan will look to emulate what Aaron Rodgers did last week and record his first win in the playoffs. Ryan lost on his first playoff start, a road defeat in Arizona two years ago, and will look to make amends in front of a raucous Atlanta crowd. Psychologically the result of this game could have a massive impact on Ryan’s career.
Smith’s challenge Up until last Sunday, the Green Bay Packers couldn’t run the ball. James Starks changed that last week with an explosive performance for 123 yards on 23 carries. Mike Smith, head coach of the Falcons, will now have to factor Starks’ threat in and find a way to balance neutralizing the run without giving Aaron Rodgers room to operate. Smith is a creative thinker. When he took over in 2008, he decided to limit John Abraham’s snaps to keep him fresh and reduce the chance for injury. The previously injury-prone defensive end has missed just one game since.
The Verdict This promises to be a tight duel with two bend-don’t-break defenses looking to do enough to drag their franchises over the finish line. The prospect of a Bears-Packers NFC Championship game is appealing but I don’t expect it to happen this year. Despite picking Green Bay to win it all at the start of the season I don’t like the Packers to get out of the NFC in 2010. Atlanta will make home advantage count and move one step closer to the Super Bowl. Bet on the Atlanta Falcons as -2.5 favorites with Sports Interaction.