The Atlanta Falcons do not need to be reminded of how badly they were dominated by Green Bay in the playoffs last season. They also know the challenge of beating the Packers this time might be even tougher. Seven months after the Packers stormed through Atlanta on their way to a Super Bowl title, the Falcons get a shot to avenge that loss Sunday night at the Georgia Dome.
Atlanta (2-2) was the No. 1 seed in the NFC and playing at home in January, but Aaron Rodgers carved up the Falcons by going 31 of 36 for 366 yards with three touchdown passes and one rushing score in Green Bay's 48-21 divisional playoff win. The Packers (4-0) have won 10 straight games including postseason since losing 31-27 at New England in Week 15 last December - a game Rodgers sat out due to a concussion. Also healthier now than the last time it faced Atlanta, Green Bay is averaging a league-high 37.0 points and is coming off a 49-23 win over Denver last Sunday in which it totaled 507 yards.
Rodgers threw for a regular season career-high 408 yards against the Broncos and became the first player in NFL history with 400 passing yards, four passing TDs and two rushing scores in a single game. In addition to Rodgers, five other Packers scored touchdowns, including cornerback Charles Woodson's 11th career interception return for a score. Receiver Greg Jennings has caught 17 passes for 222 yards over the last two games overall and 18 for 220 in his last two versus Atlanta.
Rodgers has MVP-caliber numbers through the first quarter of the season, completing 73.0 percent of his passes for 1,325 yards with 12 TDs and two interceptions. He could have more success versus a Falcons defense that allowed four touchdowns and 372 total yards in a 30-28 victory Sunday over a Seattle team that had scored 30 total points coming into the game. On the other side of the ball, Atlanta would like to exploit a Green Bay defense that ranks 31st against the pass with 335.8 yards allowed per game and has yielded 25 plays of 20-plus yards. If the Falcons hope to move the ball through the air, quarterback Matt Ryan will need to be better than he was versus Green Bay in January, when he threw one touchdown and two interceptions and was sacked five times. He's thrown six TDs and four interceptions this season and has been sacked 13 times - sixth-most in the NFL.
Even with star Roddy White on the field, rookie receiver Julio Jones is becoming another favorite of Ryan. The sixth overall pick, Jones set a single-game franchise record with 11 receptions last week and has totaled 242 yards over the last two games. The Falcons also would like to get Michael Turner untracked after totaling 90 yards in his last two contests following consecutive 100-games to open the season. Turner ran for 231 on 49 carries in his previous two games versus Green Bay before he was held to 39 on 10 rushes in the playoff loss.
To think the Packers can charge right back into Atlanta and crank out a facsimile of their whipping of the Falcons in the NFC divisional playoff last January seems far-fetched. Then again, Green Bay is blazing with a league-high 148 points after four weeks. Rodgers has been as masterful in the passing game to start this season as he was in the postseason. As much as the Falcons like to push the football vertically, they haven't reneged on their objective of controlling the clock. Getting back to pounding the football with Turner seems likely. Either way it will not be enough against this high powered offense who can execute in the blink of an eye. Packers by 2 TD's in the cozy high scoring atmosphere of the Georgia Dome.