NFC Championship - Looking at the Falcons

By Charles Jay

The Atlanta Falcons have been almost impossible to stop this season. They have scored just under 34 points per game, and moved the ball up and down the field against the Seattle Seahawks last week in winning their Divisional Round matchup, which has led to an appearance in the NFC championship game. They can get to the Super Bowl they can beat the Green Bay Packers, who come into this contest with an eight-game winning streak. The Falcons will have to overcome the momentum of the Packers, as well as the playoff experience that team possesses. But they have the weaponry to get that done. The game kicks off at 3:05 PM ET at the Georgia Dome, and America’s Bookie customers can stay involved with the action by using either of two “Live Betting” options.

The Falcons’ 33.9-point average is actually the eighth highest in the history of the NFL. Matt Ryan was recently named first-team All-Pro by the Associating Press, beating out Tom Brady and his counterpart in this game, Aaron Rodgers. He averaged a monster 9.3 yards per attempt, and has the receiver no one can really stop, as Julio Jones rambled for 1409 yards and 17 yards per catch. Jones has been dealing with a toe injury, but insists that will not affect him in this game. For the first time in a while, Ryan has a legitimate big-play receiver opposite Jones. Tyler Gabriel has gained a lot of steam in the second half of the season, and he showed what he can do against this Green Bay secondary by catching a 47-yard touchdown when these teams met on October 30.

In the NFC Championship odds posted on this game, the Falcons are favored:

Atlanta Falcons -6 (-105)
Green Bay Packers +6 (-115)

Over 60.5 points -110
Under 60.5 points -110

What’s really interesting about this Falcon offense is that they can always have a running back in the game who can catch the ball. Davonta Freeman, who also had 1079 rushing yards, caught 54 passes, and Tevin Coleman averaged 13.6 yards per reception, which is very high for a running back. The Freeman-Coleman combination accounted for 24 touchdowns this season, and it’s important to note that they run behind the best blocking unit in the league, according to the analytics site Pro Football Focus. The Packers’ vulnerability to the run (allowing 4.7 yards per carry over the last dozen games) will make it possible for Ryan to work play-action, which he did more often in a quarterback in the league (26% of the time, in fact).

Ryan really got his wish this season, as offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan relented and allowed him to work out of the no-huddle format. Shanahan’s reward for doing that will be the head-coaching job with the San Francisco 49ers, if you believe the rumors.

The Atlanta defense was week against the run (allowing 4.5 yards per carry) and was the second-worst unit in red zone situations, allowing 70.7% touchdowns. They lost quarterback Desmond Trufant into the Green Bay game, and is no secret that they have to get some got a pressure on Rodgers. Vic Beasley is one guy who can do it; he had 15.5 of Atlanta’s 34 sacks, but they also have Dwight Freeney on hand to apply some pressure. That may or may not be successful, but it is absolutely critical that they improve upon what they have done against first-down rushes, as they allow 5.4 yards per attempt. Remember that the Packers have had a rushing game over the second half of the season, behind converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery.

Can either team stop the other? Atlanta played 14 of its 17 games over the total, while Green Bay has played six consecutive overs. But Atlanta could get one more defensive stop, if the banged-up Packer receivers are less than their usual selves.

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