Atlanta is led by their record-setting NFL offense. They have scored 540 points this regular season, which is tied with the 2000 St. Louis Rams offense for the 8th most points scored in a NFL season. The Falcons offense also ranks 1st in the NFL in points scored per game with 33.8 a game. None of this would be possible though without their leader of their offense in quarterback Matt Ryan.
Matt Ryan has had one of his best years statistically this season. He finished the year with 4,944 yards passing, 38 touchdowns, seven interceptions and quarterback rating of 117.1. These numbers are all career-bests for Ryan. While he is the driving force and the manager of the offense, he has been aided by great players at the skill positions.
Wide receiver Julio Jones leads the receiving group with 83 catches for 1,409 yards receiving and six touchdowns. Free agent wide receiver additions Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel have combined to catch 94 passes for 1,232 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns. The Falcons wide receivers are a difficult matchup as they present size and speed that are difficult for a defense to matchup with.
The rushing attack, led by Devonta Freeman, has also been a huge part of the success of the Falcons offense. Freeman has rushed for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns. Fellow running back Tevin Coleman has also added 520 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns. Both Freeman and Coleman have also been key part to the passing attack as they have combined for 85 catches for 883 yards receiving. While the Falcons have been lethal and a difficult opponent all season, there may be no team hotter in the NFL than the Packers.
The Packers had a very up-and-down season throughout the year. By mid-November, the Packers had a record of 4-6 and there were rumblings from Packers fans that it might be time to move on from head coach Mike McCarthy and/or general manager Ted Thompson, quarterback Aaron Rodgers may be nearing the end and the Packers were going to be heading for an early offseason and a top-5 pick in the draft. Heading into an important game against the Philadelphia Eagles on the road, as the loser of the game would likely not make the playoffs, Rodgers made a declaration that sent shockwaves through the NFL.
“I feel like we can run the table,” Rodgers said.
The thought by many people was that Rodgers was either arrogant, or over confident when he made this statement. The Packers were struggling both offensively and defensively during their four game losing streak and they were going to face off against several tough opponents to close out the season. The likelihood of a struggling team being able to flip the switch was not likely.
What this statement was though was a message from Rodgers to the team that he felt like the team could go on a six game winning streak to conclude the regular season and make the playoffs. Basically, it was a shot of confidence in the arm of a team that seemed to be lacking confidence at times in games. It seemed to have worked as the Packers won six straight to close out the regular season and won their first two playoff games against the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.
There has probably been no player hotter in the NFL than Rodgers these past eight weeks. In this eight game winning streak he has thrown for 24 touchdowns to one interception. For the season, he has thrown for 4,428 yards passing, 40 touchdowns, which led the NFL, and only seven interceptions.
What makes these numbers even more impressive is that the Packers have struggled with their rushing attack all season as their top three running backs have dealt with injuries and are either on injured reserve, or still injured. In this eight game winning streak, the Packers moved wide receiver Ty Montgomery to running back and have relied on a combination of him and fullback Aaron Ripkowski to lead the rushing attack.
The receiving group has been led by Jordy Nelson who finished the season with 97 catches, for 1,257 yards and led the NFL with 14 touchdowns. Wide receiver Davante Adams has also had an impressive year with 75 catches, for 997 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. Tight end Jared Cook and wide receiver Randall Cobb have also been key players during this run. Cook finished the year with 30 catches for 377 yards and Cobb has added 60 catches for 610 yards. Cobb and Cook will be key in this game as Nelson and Adams may be hampered by their rib and ankle injuries respectively.
This game will probably be an offensive shootout. Both the Falcons and Packers’ defenses have struggled throughout the year especially against the pass. This may be a game where if one of the teams gets at least one stop, that team might win. Ryan and Rodgers are both playing at a very high level and while Ryan may have the more impressive supporting cast, there may be no player hotter in the NFL than Rodgers right now. This should be a great game. Matt Ryan and the Falcons could go to their first Super Bowl since the 1998 NFL season, or Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will continue to “run the table” right to the Super Bowl.