Green Bay (12-6) at Atlanta (12-5)
When: Sunday, January 22nd 2017
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Time: 3:05 ET | TV: FOX
Two of the hottest teams in football square off in the NFC Championship Game when the Atlanta Falcons host the Green Bay Packers at the final game in the Georgia Dome. Green Bay was mired in a four-game losing streak earlier in the regular season, then Aaron Rodgers took over and the Packers have won eight straight contests including victories over the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys this postseason. Last week’s win over the Cowboys was as dramatic as it gets. Kicker Mason Crosby connected on three field goals of 50+ yards in the fourth quarter including the game winner as time expired to eliminate the Cowboys 34-31. Rodgers was 28-of-43 for 355 yards and two scoring strikes connecting with tight end Jared Cook six times for 103 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers threw his first interception in the last eight games and has 24 touchdowns during that run to go along with a sizzling 117.9 QB rating. Jordy Nelson (ribs), Davante Adams (ankle) and undrafted rookie Geronimo Allison (hamstring) all are nursing injures at the wide receiver position. Nelson (NFL-best 14 receiving touchdowns) sat out Sunday’s victory over Dallas and is dealing with a combination of pain tolerance and medical clearance in his decision to play versus Atlanta. While Adams (career-best 76 catches, 997 yards and 12 TDs) won’t practice before Sunday’s pregame workout, Randall Cobb will be good to go and has five touchdowns in his last five playoff games. Converted running back Ty Montgomery, who rushed for two touchdowns in the first half against the Cowboys, could easily provide some help in the passing game should Adams or Allison sit out.
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While Rodgers has been the talk of the NFL, Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan could very well win the MVP Award this season with his stellar play. Ryan set a franchise record with 4,944 passing yards this season and has thrown 14 scoring passes without an interception during Atlanta’s five-game winning streak. He led the league this season with a 117.1 passer rating and his 38 touchdowns trailed only Rodgers (40). Ryan’s Falcons got the better of Rodgers’ Packers in the first meeting of the season on October 30th when Mohamed Sanu hauled in Ryan’s third touchdown pass with 31 seconds remaining in a 33-32 victory. Atlanta received a bye in the first round of the playoffs, but showed no rust last week in a 36-20 drubbing of the Seattle Seahawks. The Falcons fell behind 7-0, but then went on a 26-3 run to put a strangle-hold on Seattle’s playoff fate. All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones insists he expects to play in the NFC title game despite sitting out his second straight practice on Thursday. Jones (1,409 receiving yards) aggravated a toe injury in Saturday’s victory over Seattle that has plagued him since Week 13. Sanu had nine receptions for 84 yards in the earlier meeting versus the Packers while fellow wideout Taylor Gabriel also found the end zone in that game and has five TDs in his last seven games overall. Atlanta (NFL-best 540 points) has scored a touchdown on its first possession in each of its last seven games.
This one is a tough game to call. Defense probably won’t play a role in the outcome of this as both offenses are flying high. Rodgers and head coach Mike McCarthy have the experience advantage in this one and I’m going to stick with Rodgers and his magical ride he’s on.
Pick: Packers +5.5