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Sam Farmer breaks down Packers-Falcons playoff matchup

The Times' NFL columnist looks at Saturday's playoff game between Green Bay and Atlanta and predicts which team will win.

January 11, 2011|By Sam Farmer

SECOND ROUND: GREEN BAY AT ATLANTA
Saturday, 5 p.m. PST, Channel 11

Second of four parts

Even though his team is playing host to a divisional playoff game Saturday, Atlanta Coach Mike Smith is determined not to take his work home with him.

Because he's not going home.

Smith has been sleeping at Falcons headquarters, thanks to a snow-and-ice storm that has rolled through the South and left roadways clogged and treacherous.

Since Sunday, Smith and some players and coaches have been staying at the team's complex, sleeping in dormitories used during training camp.

"I'm from Florida, I'm not going out in that stuff," Smith told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

There wasn't much difference between Green Bay, Wis., and Atlanta on Tuesday night. It was cloudy and 22 degrees in that part of Wisconsin, and cloudy and 31 in Atlanta.

The Packers-Falcons game will be played inside, of course, in the climate-controlled Georgia Dome.

Matty Ice (storm)

In his first three seasons, Atlanta's Matt Ryan has won 33 games. That ties him with Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the most victories by a modern-era starting quarterback in his first three seasons. Right behind them is Baltimore's Joe Flacco, who entered the league with Ryan.

PLAYER, TEAM, YEARS, W Dan Marino , Miami, 1983-85, 33 Matt Ryan, Atlanta, 2008-10, 33 Joe Flacco, Baltimore, 2008-10, 32 B.Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, 2004-06, 29 John Elway, Denver, 1983-85, 27

Two of a kind

Rodgers and Ryan have gotten to know each other while attending off-season charity events in the last few years and have struck up a friendship. They even planned to vacation together last year, although that didn't come together.

"I have a lot of respect for the way he plays," Rodgers told reporters. "I think he delivers the ball on time, he gets the ball out of his hands, doesn't take a lot of sacks. He obviously played at a Pro Bowl level this season, and he's tough to beat at home.

Ryan is 20-2 as a starter at the Georgia Dome, and this season threw for 3,705 yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Ryan is making his second postseason start, the first coming two years ago in a loss to Arizona, when he finished with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Asked if he's feeling additional pressure this time, as quarterback of the top-seeded team, Ryan said: "I don't think so. At this point, the only thing we've done the last 17 weeks, 16 weeks, is ensure that we get one home playoff game.

"It's a completely new season, and it doesn't matter if you're the 1 seed, or the 6 seed. Every football team's good, and it's going to be a battle."

Finishing strong

The Packers rank among the league's best teams in regular-season games played in December and January since 2000. The top five during that span:

Team W-L Pct.
New England 42-9 .824
Pittsburgh 35-13 .729
Green Bay 34-13 .723
Philadelphia 32-14 .696
Indianapolis 31-17 .646

Another view

CBS' Phil Simms: "Let's see, Aaron Rodgers is bringing a running game? Really? Let's don't forget they ran that ball against the Philadelphia Eagles. So I don't know if it will be quite as forgiving down there in Atlanta as it was in Philadelphia."

By the numbers

How the teams compare statistically. All statistics are per-game averages, except for turnover differential, which is for the season (league rank in parentheses):

PACKERS
Points scored, 24.2 (10)
Points allowed, 15.0 (2)
Pass offense, 257.8 (5)
Rush offense, 100.4 (24)
Pass defense, 194.2 (5)
Rush defense, 114.9 (18)
Sacks, 2.94 (2)
Penalty yards, 38.6 (30)
Turnovers, +10 (4)

FALCONS?
Points scored 25.9 (5)
Points allowed 18.0 (5)
Pass offense 222.9 (15)
Rush offense118.2 (12)
Pass defense226.6 (22)
Rush defense105.9 (10)
Sacks2.38 (11)
Penalty yards37.3 (31)
Turnovers+14 (3)

Farmer's pick

If the Packers can contain Roddy White with Charles Woodson, they can ratchet up the pressure on Ryan. Now that he has a running game -- or at least he did at Philadelphia -- Rodgers is as dangerous as any quarterback in the game.

PACKERS 24, FALCONS 21

sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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