Two Of The Best Quarterbacks Face Off For NFC Conference Championship

Energetic, High Scoring Game Predicted between Packers and Falcons

Packers vs. Falcons
Mike Roemer/AP Photo

The Green Bay Packers are one of four teams remaining in this NFL season. For Sunday’s NFC Conference Championship game, they’ll face the Atlanta Falcons. And at that game, two of the league’s best quarterbacks will take the field: the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Falcons’ Matt Ryan.

Many have predicted Ryan will become this year’s MVP. Green Bay Press Gazette Packers columnist Pete Dougherty said pair that with Rodgers playing better than anyone over the last two months and you get a high scoring game with a lot of fireworks.

“There’s going to be a lot of pressure on both offenses to score pretty much every time they get the ball,” Dougherty said. “This could be a game where you get a couple stops, that could be enough to win the game for you. One big, third down play by anybody that forces a punt could be the difference in this game.”

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The Atlanta Falcons’ offense dominated the NFL this year. Among many impressive stats, they were the top-scoring team in the league. This will present a challenge for the Packers’ secondary, which Dougherty said has seen its ups and downs this season and has been rocked by injuries to players like cornerback Sam Shields.

“They’re going to have to match up with Julio Jones, who’s the best receiver in the game,” Dougherty said. “But the Falcons can run the ball too, so you can’t put all resources towards stopping pass. Matt Ryan is one of the best deep ball throwers in the game and I don’t know if they’ll get any stops or not.”

When the teams played each other earlier this season in October, Atlanta won 33-32. A handful of the Packers’ key players sat out of that game due to injuries: wide receiver Randall Cobb, wide receiver (now running back) Ty Montgomery, linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins.

Dougherty said the Packers are a completely different team now; they’re much better.

“They didn’t have an identity then,” he said. “They were searching (for one) on offense.”

And while many of those injured players from week eight will suit up this weekend, there are some other star Packers players that may be sitting this game out. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson likely won’t play because of fractured ribs. ESPN is reporting that wide receiver Davonte Adams is questionable with an ankle injury. And Dougherty says safety Morgan Burnett could also be out, after he injured his quad in last week’s game.

“If he can’t play, that’s a really big loss because then you’re getting deeper into their depth and you’re losing one of their best guys on defense at a position area where they really need help,” Dougherty said.

On the Falcons’ side, defensive end Adrian Clayborn will have to sit out because of an injury.

“That takes a bite out of their pass rush and run defense,” Dougherty said.

The Packers are coming into the Sunday’s game following an emotional win in Dallas, where they beat the Cowboys 34-31 with seconds remaining. Dougherty said a win like that can mess with players in the regular season, but in the playoffs, they have to let it roll off.

“All that does is add to their momentum, their feelings of self-belief, their feelings that they’re the best team in the league,” Dougherty said. “I would think that this would foster all those things so I wouldn’t think there’d be a letdown since there’s so much at stake here. This is why they all play- to play in the Super Bowl. So to me, it feels like a snowball rolling down hill and getting bigger and bigger.”

Kickoff for the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons matchup will be at 2:05 p.m. CT on Sunday at the Georgia Dome. The game will air on Fox.