Poll time: Who’s most important Falcon vs. Packers?

John Abraham has led the team with 13 sacks.

John Abraham has led the team with 13 sacks.

But his car slid off I-985 Monday.

But his car slid off I-985 Monday.

Assuming I can get my car out of the garage, I’m off to Flowery Branch this morning for Falcons practice and a column later. If I can’t get out of the garage this morning, I’ll be live blogging off of “Curb Appeal” or some fabulous gemstones on QVC.

The subject of the intended Falcons piece likely will be John Abraham, assuming he can make it to the team’s facility safely after he slid off the road on Monday and had to be rescued by Kroy Biermann. (Nice teamwork.)

Who is the Falcons' most important player Saturday night against Green Bay?

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Abraham, with 13 sacks,  is having one of the best seasons of his career — even while near the end of his career. I’ll get into the whys and hows of that more later.

But here’s this morning’s question. Who’s the single most important player for the Falcons in this week’s playoff game against the Green Bay Packers?

The reflex action is to say Matt Ryan, simply because he’s the quarterback. But we’ve seen the Falcons win games this season when Ryan had only average, but mistake-free games.

The Falcons also don’t win this game if they can’t get some pressure on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who probably is playing as well as any quarterback in the league right now, other than Tom Brady.

So I’ve put up a poll of five Falcons. Pick one and tell me why he’s the most important. And don’t tell me you don’t have time to comment because I know you’re skipping work again.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

116 comments Add your comment

Buck Commander

January 11th, 2011
8:30 am

First on a snowy day.

Buck Commander

January 11th, 2011
8:41 am

Morning Jeff, I chose Matt Ryan since I think the players around Ryan will bring it to the Packers. If Matt plays average and with few mistakes or has a great game then the Falcons can win. If Matt has a sub-par game I’m worried that the Packers will win since they dont need any help from the other team and they are playing very good right now. It should be a great game. GO FALCONS!!!!

Buck Commander

January 11th, 2011
8:45 am

Jeff you made some good points in your blog. I guess it could come down to a lot of different things or players when it comes to winning in the playoffs.

Willy

January 11th, 2011
8:46 am

A smart sportswriter would have scraped his driveway of snow and ice YESTERDAY.
Just kidding, good luck Jeff.

FalconUGAFan

January 11th, 2011
8:49 am

Jeff..I’m going to flex here and say Ryan…His game has been a little off of late. Its true that he is a good QB, but he needs to take the next step. Maybe its MM or maybe it is his skill set, but the champion teams are usually carried on the shoulders of the QB. Don’t get me wrong, I love the guy as our QB but want to see him reach his potential.

Buck Commander

January 11th, 2011
8:49 am

Jeff, we must be the only two people left in Georgia with power and internet service this morning. Guess the snow and ice got everyone else. Have a great day and be careful if you hit the roads.

bob

January 11th, 2011
8:49 am

The most important group is the offensive line. If every QB had the protection Brady has they would all be all world. Sometimes he has 4-5-6 seconds to find a receiver. Give Ryan that kind of time and
watch the game he would have.

suwaneefalcon

January 11th, 2011
8:51 am

Turner. Control the clock, control the game, win the game. Keep Rogers on the sideline and force him to have to pass when he is in. Abe becomes the second most important Falcon from there.

Buck Commander

January 11th, 2011
8:52 am

Hey, We are not alone, there is still life out there.

mountain_jim

January 11th, 2011
8:55 am

I also say Turner, who needs to see and hit the holes better than he has been of late. Pounding them is good, but we need first downs keeping Rogers off, as suwaneefalcon says.

mountain_jim

January 11th, 2011
8:56 am

And Turner needs to stop fumbling in the red zone – one more of those could kill the season!

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

January 11th, 2011
9:04 am

since the entire offensive line wasn’t a choice I will go with robinson/grimes .
GO FALCONS!

truth

January 11th, 2011
9:06 am

This aint the Falcons of 2001-2006……it’s not one man, but the entire team is important.

Larry

January 11th, 2011
9:06 am

Jeff,

I think you left out one important “Falcon”–coach Mike Smith!

The Falcons have had some really good game plans (like the first game against New Orleans, the offensive game plan against Baltimore and the defensive game plan in the 2nd game against New Orleans) and some bizarre and highly questionable game plans (like the Offensive game plan against Pittsburgh and the second game against New Orleans). I think Mike Smith’s game plan on BOTH offense and defense and his in game decision making on key 4th downs will be the biggest factor of all.

Our team is rested, healed and ready to defend the Dome! If the game plan is sound and Coach Smith doesn’t make a bonehead call (like punting to Brees with under 3 minutes left and behind) then we should win this game by 7-10 points. However, if BVG sends three pass rushers against Rodgers too often and at the wrong time; if Mularkey keeps Ryan handcuffed with poor 3rd and long calls; if Turner keeps trying to bounce outside like he’s Barry Sanders; and if Smith coaches without courage, intelligence, logic and wisdom, we are done!

Coach Smith’s instructions to his coordinators and his in-game, situational decision making is the key to this game. The players are rested and ready…just like the 1980 Atlanta Falcons were!

FrostyBird

January 11th, 2011
9:08 am

Coach Smith and staff….Don’t get outcoached like in Philly!!!! Our staff seems to have BIG trouble adjusting to anything new. Hope they can adjust quickly this week. If we get a good start, the fans will make sure we win.j

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 11th, 2011
9:09 am

I still like men. Please forgive all of my past rambings about Mike “CHOKE” Vick. I am a g@y tool.

JJ

January 11th, 2011
9:11 am

I say Ryan. Packers will put 7/8 in the box UNTIL Ryan makes some plays in the secondary. If he doesnt connect on those plays, we cannot run. Breakout game (he’s had several already) on the big stage, then Turner will pound them in the 2nd half.

Jeff D.

January 11th, 2011
9:11 am

Enter your comments here

socialssea

January 11th, 2011
9:12 am

Defense, defense, defense.

JJ

January 11th, 2011
9:13 am

Ignore the twisting worm and dont take the bait!

Knoxville Falcons Fan

January 11th, 2011
9:13 am

I think the question is flawed. I think the Falcons’ strength is precisely that no one player is the “most important.” Ryan, Turner, and Roddy all make each other better. You said yourself, Jeff, that we’ve won even when Matty has had average or bad games, usually because other players on the offense have stepped up and picked up the slack. The long drives the offense has put together, along with holding onto the ball (3rd in turnover margin) have let the defense stay fresh.

The defense keeps points off the board and keeps teams from getting in position for easy scores (5th in scoring defense, top 6 in opponents’ redzone opportunities), so the offense is rarely in the position of having to come back from large deficits.

And the return teams are giving the offense good field position, although we did put together a 99 yard drive against tampa bay this year.

I think the question works for a team like green bay, which – despite Starks’ day against the eagles – runs the ball like it weighs 7 tons. Would the packers really have gone anywhere this season without Rogers? Now, don’t get me wrong with that reference; I’m not saying that we could do without Ryan, or that we would be where we are without him or Roddy or Abraham or any other single player. I just think that among the remaining playoff teams, the components of our team fit and work together better than pretty much anyone else. Almost everyone else – even new england – seems like a one or two-trick pony. I don’t believe you can say that about the Falcons.

Paul in RDU

January 11th, 2011
9:14 am

Matt Ryan – In the NFL the QB is always the most important player on your team.

Jeff D.

January 11th, 2011
9:14 am

Sorry about the blank. That was a list of what’s open in Downtown Atlanta. I like Abe in the poll. I’d vote for whoever is captain of the defense. If we can contain Rogers and co. like last time I won’t worry about the offense.

Matt

January 11th, 2011
9:14 am

Wayne in Decatur

January 11th, 2011
9:15 am

Great question Jeff…with all of our weapons both offensively and on the defensive side of the ball..(drum roll please).. I choose Michael Jenkins…simply put the guy is a very good blocker in the run game..but in this game and for games hearafter,we need him to play just as his 6′4 frame suggest…his play would have a domino affect on Roddy,Tony G,and the run game…it would put the Packers in a pickle if they couldn’t play a safety over the top of Roddy,then that would give Tony the opportuinty to work the middle area…and lastly but certainly not the least..it would open up our sledge hammer of a running back Michael the burner Turner…it would force the safety out of the box and then we could gash them with our run game..So wake up Michael Jenkins the fans are calling you as well as your teammates…GO FALCONS ALL THE WAY TO DALLAS AND WIN

Turnertheburner?

January 11th, 2011
9:21 am

Turner’s gotta exert of a lot better effort than of late. If, and that’s wait and see, he does, then I also agree Turner is the main guy the Falcons need to lean on. Note to Turner, try not crumpling to the turf so easily in this game when you are first hit. Also, less east-west running and more north-south, and with more explosiveness between the tackles. Certainly not easy to do, but if Turner has significant improvement, Ryan and the receivers should do well. Hopefully, Turner will not fumble in this game. Since football is a game of averages and Turner has mostly avoided fumbling this year, hopefully he corrected this problem, and gets back to holding on to the ball.

NCBravesFan

January 11th, 2011
9:22 am

Hard to pin it down to one player, but here goes … It looked to me like the defensive line of the Packers did a really good job in the Philly game. The match-up with the O line of the Falcons, and how Ryan responds if the Packers win the line of scrimmage will tell the tale of this game IMO.

svewfrmtop

January 11th, 2011
9:23 am

I say Abraham. The Falocons will score on the Packers. The issue will be stopping them from scoring and the Falcons will need to tackle the qb on there blitz. You miss the tackles and he will find the wholes left by the blitzer. They missed alot of tackles on there blitzs agaisnt the saints, You cant do that against the packers in this game.

TheAntiMe

January 11th, 2011
9:23 am

I’ll be a radical and say Strong Safety William Moore. I say this not only because the Packers are a very pass-oriented team but also because QB Aaron Rodgers can burn opponents when he takes off and scrambles and often times it is up to the defense’s Strong Safety to spy on a running QB.

Falcons

January 11th, 2011
9:24 am

Every analyst is so high on GB. I’ve never seen a team (falcons) get such little respect. Funny how when we lost to the saints, in what was really a meaningless game, they all came out saying how we just were’t at the same level as the packers and saints and how we would lose to them. that’s you banks, dilfer, etc, never mind the fact we were 2-1, shoulda been 3-0 against them. and when the bears lose a meaningless game to gb, no one says oh wow they lost. just win it all and shut these clueless idiots up. they obviously know nothing with their saints going to the nfc champ.

vafalconfan

January 11th, 2011
9:24 am

Jason Snelling because Turner has lost a step and we need a back that can attack the line of scrimmage..if MUlarkey keeps running Turner left and right into a wall of flesh this will be a long night for our Falcons and their fans..I’m just saying..

Chip

January 11th, 2011
9:30 am

Just hope Turner doesn’t have any more fumbles.

Sid

January 11th, 2011
9:30 am

The defense in it’s entireity. No one player got us here but if the D can have a solid game (and special teams) we can notch this game up and wait for Da Bears and possibly even the Seahawks!

robertussen

January 11th, 2011
9:32 am

all those things are pretty important jeff. cant we have them all

eddiedawg

January 11th, 2011
9:33 am

Dunta is my choice. Time for him to earn his money. He needs two picks. Got to stop their passing attack.

Close second is Turner-he HAS to get off.

31-17 Falcons.

GO BIRDS OUR YEAR!

perspective

January 11th, 2011
9:33 am

THE DEVIL MADE HIM DO IT: TUCSON SHOOTER’S TWISTED SKULL SHRINE…
Described by Classmate as ‘Left-Wing Pothead’…
Family of suspect blocks FBI access to house…
Shooter Smirks in Court, Smiles for Mug Shot…
Was registered independent; Didn’t vote in Nov. ‘10 election…

JR

January 11th, 2011
9:34 am

If we do lose, I hope Seattle wins and hosts the nfc champ game. That would be hysterical.

Buckeye

January 11th, 2011
9:38 am

The kicking game.

Remember, the punt is the most important play in football.

RobbE33

January 11th, 2011
9:39 am

Everyone on the roster will have to play inspired, mistake-free football to win. As they have all season, it’ll take an team effort to bring home the “W. One for all and all for one,” is how they’ll get it done.

Reid Adair

January 11th, 2011
9:41 am

It will take an overall team effort, but for the sake of your poll, Jeff, I’m going with Michael Turner. The running game is going to be critical for the offense, both to control the clock and open up the passing game.

Mitch (the one in Rome)

January 11th, 2011
9:42 am

D-Line as a unit. Someone in the front four must, and I emphasize MUST pressure Rogers and contain him while dropping 8 sometimes to force incomplete passes and picks and even fumbles from hitting Rogers. We do that and the O will put a beat down on the Pack. Not worried about the O. I want to see a dominant D get some press.
Of that D-Line I’m going to say Babs or Abe.

No Tiptoes Through The Tulips

January 11th, 2011
9:52 am

If Turner can return to form and hit the holes with authority, that will open up our passing game for Ryan, Roddy, Tony G and company. Long sustained drives keep the Packers major weapon on the sideline and that’s their passing game. Wearing down the D with possession will also help. I hope Turner is well-rested! Let’s Go Falcons!

Plano BirdDawg

January 11th, 2011
9:52 am

Jeff – Where my mind goes with this poll is not quite as much who is the most important, but rather, who is the the biggest question mark. Or whose production are we most concerned about. It seems that’s the way the poll is shaking out too, so far. Turner is the most up and down performance-wise this year. Conversely, Roddy White is currently at the bottom of the poll. But White’s the biggest star on the team and possibly the best receiver playing right now. I think that White is getting the least clicks because he has been so consistent this year and we view his miracle plays as a given. What say you to this?

tony

January 11th, 2011
9:55 am

Daniel

January 11th, 2011
9:58 am

I think that Jason Snelling and Harry Douglas are the most important players, because the Falcons need to improve on their short passing game, and both players can be potential game changers.

bob [THE ONE IN POWDER SPRINGS]

January 11th, 2011
10:04 am

we MUST be able to run the ball,our pass rush [Abe,Babs,Beerman] MUST get after rogers.Sat nite crowd could be the difference maker GO FALCONS

Chris

January 11th, 2011
10:10 am

It has to be Grimes and Robinson. If they cover well the pressure will be there. They will also need to create a turnover. Whether it be due to their coverage and they get a sack and fumble, or they get a pick. Preferably a pick six. Grimes has played pretty well this season, now he needs to step up in the playoffs to show others that they need to start looking at Dunta’s side. When that happens, turnovers will start to happen more often. Right now I think Dunta has been exploited on the deep ball since no one ever throws it to his side. When he is expecting them to throw to his side, he will be ready for whatever they throw at him.

5 Card Chuck

January 11th, 2011
10:11 am

Let’s prove the ESPN idiots wrong and garner some well earned respect while we’re at it. We aren’t flashy or sexy like the Saints offense or the Packers offense, but let’s keep doing what works and what got us to 13-3 and the # 1 seed. We’re well coached, smart and disciplined in all facets and once we beat GB ( AGAIN) everyone will know who we are and the lazy national media will have no choice but to give us our props. Kick some @$$ Falcons!!!

Ivan

January 11th, 2011
10:14 am

This one is easy. The D line as a whole must be able to get in Rogers face all game, with or without the blitz.

Look at the way the Packers came back on the Falcons in their first meeting. The Falcons rushed 3, dropped 8, and Rogers had all day to throw. He threads a needle in the back of the end zone for a touchdown as a result.

If the Falcons aren’t in his face, Rogers will pick them apart.

Paul H

January 11th, 2011
10:23 am

Ryan
Abraham
Turner
White