Know Your Falcons: Who’s the easiest to prank The Falcons players chime in on who is the easiest to prank on the team, however most of them voice their frustrations on who is the biggest prankster on the team. (Video by Ryon Horne/AJC)
FLOWERY BRANCH – I’ve been in constant contact this week with my old posse, Bob McGinn and Tom Silverstein, of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
We did it real big covering the Packers together in the 1990s. We made sure Brett Favre didn’t break curfew and were in New Orleans for Mike Holmgren and Reggie White’s Super Bowl title. We fought through Ray Rhodes’s one season together. I left shortly after the start of the Mike Sherman era of under-achievement.
Our editors have even been exchanging copy. We ran a few stories from my old pal Lori Nickel (we won an award together for
FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons defensive John Abraham has seen his share of good running backs.
He played with Curtis Martin, one of the finalist for this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class, with the New York Jets.
He played two seasons with Warrick Dunn and has played with Michael Turner.
So excuse Abraham is he’s not real excited about Green Bay running back James Starks, who ran for 123 yards last week.
“I can’t hype anybody off one game,” Abraham said. “You’ve got to show me more.”
The Falcons held the Packers to 77 yards rushing on Nov. 28. They stuffed them inside the five, twice. So Starks is supposed to be the great equalizer in Saturday’s NFC divisional round game at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
Abraham clearly doesn’t plan to let some rookie from Buffalo get his way.
“I think our run defense has done so well this year that
FLOWERY BRANCH – Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez believes the fans are on their way to being some of the best in the league.
He compared them favorably to the rabid fans he played before when he was with the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Come playoff time, I’m hoping it goes up another notch,” Gonzalez said. “But Kansas City — you talk about that home field — there isn’t anything else going on in that town. They’re just die-hard Chiefs fans out there.
“In Atlanta, you see it. You see it in spurts. I’d like to see it a little bit more. I think they do understand the advantage that it gives you as a home team, to have that crowd going nuts.”
Quarterback Matt Ryan, who’s posted a 20-2 record at the Georgia Dome, believes the fans are key.
“I think the fans have been awesome this year,” Ryan said. “I think the Dome’s been a tough place for teams to come in and play. The atmosphere has been electric.”
The fans know when to be quiet.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Cornerback Brian Williams (knee) did not practice on Thursday, but did work out with the training staff.
Falcons coach Mike Smith is hoping that he can return on Friday.
Defensive end John Abraham (groin), defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder), middle linebacker Curtis Lofton (limited), wide receiver Roddy White (knee) and safety Thomas DeCoud (ankle) were limited in practice.
McClure (ankle) participated fully after being limited on Wednesday.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter
Feel free to put a chip on your shoulder, Falcons fans.
Not that you should be surprised, but ESPN’s website presents convincing evidence that most football fans don’t believe in your team.
On its SportsNation page, which polls fans for predictions and other questions, only a majority of fans in Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and, oddly, New Hampshire predict a Falcons win.
The rest of the country, as well as the website’s international readership, is behind Green Bay.
For what it’s worth, Wisconsin residents believe more in their team than Georgia Falcons fans do. Among Wisconsin residents, 91 percent call for a Packers win. In Georgia, 88 percent of voters are behind the Falcons.
The only state preventing a complete sweep outside the Southeast is New Hampshire, where 53 percent back the Falcons. Live Free or Die, indeed.
NFL.com analyst Michael Lombardi calls the Packers his lock of the week, remarkable considering Seattle is a 10-point underdog
The Falcons get competitive with each other off the field. See the video below. (Production by Ryon Horne)
More Know Your Falcons: What’s your hidden talent?
FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 24 of 28 passes in the team’s previous game against the Packers, but averaged only 5.9 yards per pass play.
The Packers’ zone-blitz package forced Ryan to get the ball out quickly.
“There are certain things you have to adjust to quicker compared to other defenses you get,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of different looks that you get, but with that said, you don’t want to be out there playing too fast. As a quarterback, sometimes that can hurt you.”
The Packers sacked Ryan twice in the previous game. The Falcons spent part of their bye week working on zone-blitz looks in order to make sure there were no free runners to the quarterback.
Here’s today’s playoff six-pack: