NFC Championship - Looking at the Packers

By Charles Jay

During their current eight-game winning streak, the Green Bay Packers have turned the ball over only twice. That’s one of the things that really works in their favor as they get ready to challenge for the NFC championship on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. This game will begin at 3:05 PM ET at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, and America’s Bookie customers can take advantage of two different “Live Betting” options to stay in the action even after the game kicks off.

Aaron Rodgers started to get hot even before this win streak started. In his last nine games he’s thrown 24 touchdown passes with only one interception, and there was one string of 318 attempts without him throwing the ball into enemy hands. Rodgers has been known as a quarterback who can create quite a bit with very little, so perhaps it’s not so alarming that he’ll be dealing with three injured receivers on Sunday. Jordy Nelson had a rib injury against the New York Giants and is still little tentative; Davante Adams injured his ankle against the Cowboys last week, and Geronimo Allison is nursing a hamstring injury. It’s quite possible that they will all play in this game, but Rodgers is prepared to use other outlets, including Randall Cobb and Jared Cook, who made a miraculous catch in the final seconds to set up the winning field goal against the Cowboys. Those two receivers were not around when the Packers lost 33-32 to Atlanta on October 30.

Since that game, Green Bay has also remedied a serious problem with its run game, dealing with the injury losses of Eddie Lacy and James Starks by moving Ty Montgomery from wide receiver into the backfield. Montgomery has averaged 5.9 yards per carry overall, and since Week 10 he’s had 6.2 yards a pop on first down. Remember that Atlanta’s defense has allowed 4.5 yards an attempt.

In the NFC Championship odds posted on this game, the Packers are getting points:

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

Over 60.5 points -110
Under 60.5 points -110

Rodgers is the highest-greeted quarterback in the NFL by the site Pro Football Focus since Week 8, and that same online publication has greeted his offensive line as the best in the league in pass blocking. The offense has been 46.7% successful on third down, and they have been pretty good in the red zone, scoring touchdowns 63% of the time. The Falcons have a number of holes on defense, and one of those is in red zone situations, as they have yielded almost 71% touchdowns.

Defense has not necessarily been Green Bay’s strong suit this season. Although they are ninth in the league in sack percentage, and should come up with some creative blitz packages behind defensive coordinator Dom Capers, they ranked 25th against the pass, and Quentin Rollins, who is coming out of the league’s concussion protocol, has surrendered over 10 yards per attempt when he’s thrown at. The Packers will probably have a difficult time covering the two speedy receivers Matt Ryan has at his disposal – Julio Jones and Tyler Gabriel. And even though they got started very strongly in the first four games, allowing 2.2 yards per carry, that was against teams that really couldn’t run the football. Dallas scorched them over land, taking advantage of 157 yards by rookie Ezekiel Elliott in a 30-16 when at Lambeau Field. And since then, Green Bay has surrendered over 4.7 yards per carry. Does this open up things for Atlanta? Yes it does, because the Falcons have to outstanding running backs and were fifth in the league in rushing yards per game. That would set up play action for Matt Ryan.

Green Bay has much more playoff experience than the Falcons do, and they have covered seven of their last eight playoff games on the road. They have also played six straight games over the total, as well as six games that total more than 60 points, so they are obviously prepared for an out-and-out donnybrook on Sunday.

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