LIVE BLOG: If Falcons win, it could be Super Bowl dance

John Abraham and the Falcons celebrated after a 20-17 win over the Packers Nov. 28. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

John Abraham and the Falcons celebrated after a 20-17 win over the Packers Nov. 28 at the Georgia Dome. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Win tonight. Go to the Super Bowl. So sayeth I. (Sorry. I saw, “The King’s Speech” last night and got carried away with the whole English thing.)

Most believe the Falcons and Green Bay are the two best teams in the NFC. They just happened to be meeting in the conference semifinals. I fully expect the winner of this game to beat the winner of Sunday’s Chicago-Seattle semi. So winning today could mean a trip to Dallas.

It has been nearly two weeks since the Falcons last played — a lopsided home win over Carolina. It has been only six days since Green Bay played — last Sunday’s win in Philadelphia in the wild card game. Logic says the Falcons will be rested and the Packers will be beat up. (Remember, this is a team that also had to scramble down the stretch and win its last two regular season games just to make the playoffs.) What we can’t predict is whether the week off will affect the Falcons’ timing, but I doubt it.

Is Green Bay a better team? When healthy and at full strength, probably. But neither of those two are the case right now. The Packers lost running back Ryan Grant in the season opener and generally haven’t been able to run the ball this season, last week’s win over the Eagles notwithstanding (seldom-used rookie James Starks rushed for 123 yards).

The Falcons’ keys are fairly obvious and I touched on a couple of them during the week. But here they are:

– Get running back Michael Turner going. Turner has been good this year but not consistent. Green Bay’s defense this season ranked fifth against the pass but only 18th against the run, and Turner rushed for a 110 yards and a touchdown when the teams met in Nov. If he can duplicate that feat, it helps quarterback Matt Ryan. Which leads to . . .

– As a I wrote earlier in the week, Ryan has shown he can win games in the fourth quarter. But the Falcons are not at their best if they’re a pass-dominated offense. They need balance. Ryan has excelled this season in clutch situations and threw a career-low nine interceptions with a career-high 28 touchdowns. That stems from making good choices. Assuming that continues tonight, the Falcons will be fine.

– Defensive end John Abraham has had one of the best seasons of his career with 13 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception, despite the backdrop of his mother battling lymphoma. The defense needs to get pressure on Rodgers  and move him off the spot (to use a football phrase). Abraham is the key to that. He’ll be opposed by Packers left tackle Chad Clifton.

That’s it for now, I’ll be here blogging all game. Before I go, for what it’s worth, here are some odds from the online sports book Bodog (for entertainment purposes only, of course). The Falcons are anywhere from a 1½-to-3-point favorite.

Odds to win the 2011 Super Bowl XLV
New England Patriots                 8/5
Atlanta Falcons                       11/2
Green Bay Packers                   11/2
Pittsburgh Steelers                    6/1
Chicago Bears                           8/1
Baltimore Ravens                       9/1
New York Jets                           12/1
Seattle Seahawks                      40/1
Odds to win the 2011 AFC
New England Patriots                 5/7
Pittsburgh Steelers                    3/1
Baltimore Ravens                       5/1
New York Jets                           15/2
Odds to win the 2011 NFC
Atlanta Falcons                         8/5
Chicago Bears                           2/1
Green Bay Packers                    11/5
Seattle Seahawks                      14/1

What will be the Exact Super Bowl XLV Matchup?
New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons                    13/4
New England Patriots vs. Chicago Bears                          4/1
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Green Bay Packers                      8/1
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Atlanta Falcons                        9/1
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Chicago Bears                             11/1
Baltimore Ravens vs. Atlanta Falcons                          14/1
Baltimore Ravens vs. Chicago Bears                                16/1
New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers                  17/4
Baltimore Ravens vs. Green Bay Packers                        18/1
New York Jets vs. Atlanta Falcons                               20/1
New York Jets vs. Chicago Bears                                    22/1
New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks                     22/1
New York Jets vs. Green Bay Packers                             25/1
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks                        55/1
Baltimore Ravens vs. Seattle Seahawks                           80/1
New York Jets vs. Seattle Seahawks                               100/1

Total Passing Yards – Aaron Rodgers
Over/Under                    290.5
Total Rushing Yards – James Starks
Over/Under                    50.5
Total Receiving Yards – Greg Jennings
Over/Under                    85.5
Total Passing Yards – Matt Ryan
Over /Under                   240.5
Total Rushing Yards – Michael Turner
Over/Under                    85.5
Total Receiving Yards – Roddy White
Over/Under                    80.5

Falcons blogs from the week:

Matt Ryan’s notes, intangibles driving his success

Falcons’ Abraham excelling, even with thoughts on ill mother

Digi-Blog goes to Falcons’ camp (and there’s no Flowery Branches)

Poll time: Who’s most important Falcons player against Packers?

Saints gone, Vick gone and Falcons ready to defend turf

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

2,080 comments Add your comment

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:19 pm

First! GO FALCONS!

ijonathan

January 15th, 2011
3:20 pm

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:21 pm

Jeff, Do you have a score prediction for the game tonight? I think it will be 24-21 Falcons.

Jeff Schultz

January 15th, 2011
3:23 pm

Chillin on Paradise Island — I could see that score. It’s right on the over/under of 45.5.

Jeff Schultz

January 15th, 2011
3:24 pm

By the way: fourth! (and fifth).

Freshmaker

January 15th, 2011
3:24 pm

45th!! Goooo Falcons! Will be there in section 333 and cheering loudly.

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:25 pm

I hope its a blow out. Like what the Saints did to the Cardinals in the playoffs last year. But the Falcons and blow out don’t go together.

dcbl

January 15th, 2011
3:26 pm

Damn it Jeff, I know we got a few extra weeks of Weekend Predictions this year based on the popularity of the Sack Shultz promo.

I just want to say this, failing to give a prediction on a Falcons game this important is kind of like having a losing record at UGA – unacceptable…

Just saying… By the way, I have not sent you my check for my % of this year’s winnings. BUT – the check is in the mail! And I love you. And I won’t…wait a minute – this is a family blog – right?

So what’s the prediction of who wins & covers???

Mid Town Joe

January 15th, 2011
3:27 pm

I love our chances. Should be an exciting game. Keep up the great work, Jeff. Watching the game on my HDTV 47″ Vizio, being broadcast to my set in 1080P.

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:27 pm

I wish i could go, but im broke. Ive already spent way too much on the 2 games that I went to this season.

GSU Eagle 91

January 15th, 2011
3:28 pm

I believe the winner of the game will go to the Super Bowl…Jeff, you and I are in agreement!
I just want it to be our Falcons…

The city of Atlanta needs a champion so badly…….The Braves and Hawks are not going to win their league titles anytime soon, and the Thrashers are a long way off…
So that leaves the Falcons….
Beat the Packers! 24-20…..

Scott

January 15th, 2011
3:29 pm

Can’t wait Jeff! Ill be in 334 making noise.
Go Falcons

drmaryb (*_*)

January 15th, 2011
3:30 pm

I predict a Falcons win to advance to the conference finals and win that too:

Tonight’s Score: 27 – 10

Let’s Go!

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:31 pm

Did any of yall happen to be near the Hudson Grille in mid town last night? I cant believe the Packers fans actually had a pep really right here in OUR city.

Najeh Davenpoop

January 15th, 2011
3:32 pm

I would take the under. 45.5 seems a little high to me. This feels like a 21-20 game.

CB

January 15th, 2011
3:34 pm

We need a very loud and obnoxious crowd tonight; otherwise home field advantage is lost. Our defense has been playing awesome; hope the offensive coaching and playing can catch up. I’m worried about the offensive line run blocking and offensive play calling.

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 15th, 2011
3:34 pm

Packers 31

Falcants 10

CHOKE 3 picks

Maybe next year guys :)

Jeff Schultz

January 15th, 2011
3:34 pm

DCBL — Sorry, but Predix has been put to bed. But maybe if Falcons make it to SB we can roll out a special edition.

OK, here goes: Same score as last time — Falcons 20-17.

Jeff Schultz

January 15th, 2011
3:36 pm

Thanks, Mid Town. What’s a “P” as in 1080? I just know how to plug it in and turn it on.

chalkdawg4

January 15th, 2011
3:36 pm

Had to sell my tickets but I will be there in spirit. Rise Up Falcons!!!!

mountain_jim

January 15th, 2011
3:37 pm

I don’t want this exciting and enjoyable season to end tonight…. Go Falcons!

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:37 pm

Hey CHOKE, when does Mike Vick play? I cant find the Eagles game on my guide. Maybe i need to call comcast and have them come fix my cable.

Advantages

January 15th, 2011
3:37 pm

Funny no one talks about Gonzo. He was a big part of the win here and I believe it will be the case again today.

Jeff Schultz

January 15th, 2011
3:37 pm

Matt “Choke” Ryan — I am shocked — SHOCKED! — that you’re picking the Packers (How was that? Pick up on the sarcasm?)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 15th, 2011
3:39 pm

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:37 pm
Hey CHOKE, when does Mike Vick play? I cant find the Eagles game on my guide. Maybe i need to call comcast and have them come fix my cable.

___________________________________________

He will be playing in Honolulu starting the pro bowl while CHOKE carries his clip board :)

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:41 pm

Haha Jeff you sounded like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory when talking about sarcasm.

"Chef" Tim Dix

January 15th, 2011
3:41 pm

The Chef is ready!

But, I can’t find my cup!

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 15th, 2011
3:43 pm

Jeff Schultz

January 15th, 2011
3:37 pm
Matt “Choke” Ryan — I am shocked — SHOCKED! — that you’re picking the Packers (How was that? Pick up on the sarcasm?)

_____________________________________________-

What can I say Jeff? I can’t find it in myself to respect anyone that stays in college for 5 seasons on a 4 year scholarship :)

I was being generous – the spread is 45.5. I could have said Packers 35-10 :)

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

January 15th, 2011
3:45 pm

If the Falcants lose to they (they will), next season would put them at 7 whole seasons since their last playoff win.

Are you guys really happy with that pattern? :)

Love Mark Richt-Hate Coach Richt

January 15th, 2011
3:46 pm

Falcons by 2 touchdowns. The dome will be rocking. Hey Choke – can I march with you on Monday? Are there more than 3 words to “We Shall Overcome” ?

Falcons2010

January 15th, 2011
3:47 pm

“What we can’t predict is whether the week off will affect the Falcons’ timing, but I doubt it”

I still remember the playoffs from 2 years ago when the Steelers beat the Cardinals. That year, 3 of the 4 Number 1 seeds went down in their first games. With any luck though the Falcons will be like the Number 1 Seed that didn’t lose (aka the Super Bowl champ Steelers). Though last year both NFC #1 Seeds won … handily

Either way ff there are any timing/layoff issues we should be able to see them on their first possession of the game.

chem

January 15th, 2011
3:47 pm

Matt “CHOKE” Ryan is a bored dork seeking attention.

Steve

January 15th, 2011
3:48 pm

Jeff how do you and Mark decide who will do the live blog at big games like this? Arm wrestle?

Falcons2010

January 15th, 2011
3:48 pm

“I can’t find it in myself to respect anyone that stays in college for 5 seasons on a 4 year scholarship”

Choke probably more respects those who didn’t go to college and haven’t amounted to anything in their life! Much himself ….

mac

January 15th, 2011
3:49 pm

The spread is not 45.5 dummy, that’s the over/ under. Speaking of choke, who ended their season by throwing a pic in the endzone last week?

Mike "Choke" Vick aka Mr Charlie

January 15th, 2011
3:52 pm

So Choke picked the Pack, since is record is 3-13 on he season on picking the winner in falcons game, and 0-3 in the last Philly game, I think that is a good sign.

Eric C.

January 15th, 2011
3:53 pm

Yep, agree this is for the NFC championship.

My biggest hope is that the Packers offense operates with the illusion that they actually have a running game…e.g, 23 carries and 39 yds for Starks with several 3 & outs in the first half.

An Adult

January 15th, 2011
3:53 pm

Geez, Choke, can’t blog on a Eagles or Saints blog? Why not? Oh yeah, they are losers, like you who must spend some unbelievable amount of time on-line trashing whatever it is you don’t like. Get a life. Maybe if your mother would let you out of your basement bedroom, you might grow up sometime and experience the real world. Your two dimensional blog world is pretty small. I guess you have to have something to do until summer comes when you can open up your lemonade stand.

P Rose

January 15th, 2011
3:55 pm

Choke, I’m sure you’re real proud of your loverboy Vick! He will look sooo good starting in the Pro Bowl. And since individual accomplishments mean so much more to you than team accomplishments do, I know you’d rather your hero be in the Pro Bowl than the Super Bowl, so you must be in heaven. But remember, Matt won’t be holding Mike’s clipboard because he won’t be there — Super Bowl players are exempt from the Pro Bowl.

An Adult

January 15th, 2011
3:55 pm

Also Choke, maybe this spring in middle school you could get some help with typing and grammar. It could pay off for you when you grow up

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 15th, 2011
3:55 pm

Spud Webb of the NFL is going to get a pick-6 toda.

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
3:58 pm

Who would that be POAD?

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D A DoubleU G

January 15th, 2011
4:01 pm

Anybody know what time the Saints play tomorrow???

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Sea Dat!!!!!!

Arno

January 15th, 2011
4:02 pm

Most boring 13-3 team vs. most dangerous 10-6 team. Barring freakish breakdowns, most boring team does the job.

5150 P.O.A.D.

January 15th, 2011
4:03 pm

Grimes who else?

kreedham

January 15th, 2011
4:04 pm

I believe the #! and #2 picks will prevail…next week

ATL v CHI
NE v PIT

DIT

January 15th, 2011
4:04 pm

@D A DoubleU G

I think the same time the Tampa Bucs play…………………. NEXT SEASON!

Ross L not Ross P

January 15th, 2011
4:06 pm

The game will depend on who is better, Abe or Matthews. I don’t care for that college boy. This is a man’s game. Abe is a man. Game over. Low scoring, I’ll say 20-13 Falcons.

Chillin on Paradise Island

January 15th, 2011
4:06 pm

Jets are gonna shock the world and make it out of the AFC.