Good morning. Need coffee.
I fully expect to see better football and fewer turnovers today than I witnessed last night in Athens. Georgia and Georgia Tech will go to low-tier bowl games — and those are gifts. The Falcons (8-2) and Green Bay (7-3) are two of the NFL’s top teams and could be on track to meet for the NFC title and the Super Bowl berth.
It may take me a few cups of coffee to get me going this morning. I left Athens at 1:45 a.m., got home at 3 a.m., crawled into bed at 3:30 a.m. But I’m in a climate controlled stadium and looking at a 1 p.m. kickoff. So that’s a significant step forward from last night.
OK, about the Falcons. This game is very similar to the Baltimore game two weeks ago. It’s a chance for the Falcons to gauge themselves against one of the league’s elite. Back in early August, I gave you my rankings of the top five NFC teams. Four of the five are still looking pretty good: 1. Green Bay; 2) Atlanta; 3) Dallas (oops); 4) New Orleans; 5) New York. Let’s not talk about No. 3.
The Packers are solid. They rank eighth in scoring and second in points against. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has seven touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two games, although it’s worth noting those numbers came against two imploding teams, Dallas and Minnesota.
Actually, the Packers’ last two wins came against opponents that fired their respective head coaches (Wade Phillips and Brad Childress) the next day.
Going out on a limb here: The Falcons’ Mike Smith is safe.
Here are a few obvious keys today:
♦ Get pressure on Rogers: Defensive end John Abraham is expected to play after sitting out last week’s game in St. Louis with a groin strain. That should help. The Falcons rank only 25th in the NFL with 18 sacks, but Abraham has eight of those. The next closest: Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Babineaux with two each.
♦ Pass protect: I know, also kind of obvious. But the Packers rank among NFL leaders with 29 sacks. The Falcons’ offense’ after some inconsistencies early in the year, has excelled during the current four game winning streak. During that span, quarterback Matt Ryan has thrown for nine touchdowns, one interceptions 1,103 yards.
♦ Turnovers: This qualifies as another “duh” key. But consider this: The Falcons are 7-0 this season when they win the turnover battle and 1-2 when its even or they lose it.
One last thought before I turn it over to you: The Falcons can really set themselves up nicely for the postseason if they win today and next week at Tampa Bay. They would be 10-2 overall, 7-1 in the conference and 3-0 in the NFC South with only four games left (two with Carolina, Seattle and New Orleans). But that’s probably getting a little too far ahead.
That’s it for now. I’ll check back shortly. Should be a great game.
Falcons inactives: John Parker Wilson (third quarterback), CB Dominique Franks, RB Antone Smith, T Garrett Reynolds, G Mike Johnson, TE Michael Palmer, DE Lawrence Sidbury, DT Trey Lewis.
About last night: