The Atlanta Falcons host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. ET. Kid Reporters Alan Cole, who lives in Georgia, and Wilson von Bohlen, who lives in Wisconsin, discussed the matchup.
Alan: Everybody knows this will be a shootout. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Falcons QB Matt Ryan were first and second in the league in touchdown passes in the regular season and were two of only four quarterbacks in the league to surpass 4,400 passing yards. This game is going to be like a tennis match. Both teams are going to have to hold serve when they have the ball. Forcing one turnover could win this game. Even holding the other offense to field goals will go a long way.
The Falcons defense has been very opportunistic during its current five-game winning streak. Atlanta forced two turnovers last week against Seattle and has generated 11 total takeaways in the last five games. If the Falcons can force one on Sunday and turn it into an extra touchdown, it could be the difference in the game.
Wilson: I agree that these are two teams playing their best at the right time, and this is sure to be another close game. However, I believe that turnovers are an advantage for Green Bay. The Packers have just one turnover in the last six games and have forced 16 turnovers in those games, all wins. Forty of the 58 current Packers have postseason experience. The last time the Packers won their first two playoff games, they won the Super Bowl—and Aaron Rodgers was the quarterback.
Alan: I don’t expect experience to play a huge role in this game because both teams won playoff games last week, and both quarterbacks have played in the NFC title game before.
This is the last game in the Georgia Dome, and Ryan has come up huge in his career at home. The Falcons scored at least 33 points in six of their nine home games this season, and they won all six. Ryan averaged 295.4 passing yards per game on the road in 2016 and 324.3 at home. Both of his career playoff wins have come in the Georgia Dome, and communication should be easier there.
The Packers went a modest 5–4 on the road this season, and three of their wins were against teams who finished with losing records. In road games against teams who were .500 or better, Green Bay stumbled to a 2–4 record. This game being in the Georgia Dome is a huge advantage for Atlanta.
Wilson: Home or away, the Packers have an edge. His name is Aaron Rodgers. When the Packers visited Atlanta in Week 8, Rodgers threw for 246 yards and four touchdowns, and he rushed for 60 yards. He has a career 100 QBR in the playoffs and a 121 QBR against the Falcons. Rodgers also leads the NFC in touchdown-to-interception ratio this year and has thrown one pick in six starts against the Falcons. I think that Rodgers will be able to dominate a Falcons defense that is 27th in points allowed.
Alan: Rodgers can do some amazing things at the end of games, but he can’t do anything without the ball. Atlanta scored the game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining in the first meeting, leaving Rodgers very little time to work with. If Atlanta can go on long touchdown drives, Rodgers and Packers kicker Mason Crosby might not get a chance to beat them at the end of the game.
As for keeping the ball, the Falcons were fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game in the regular season, with 120.5. Green Bay gave up 125 rushing yards to Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot last week. If the Falcons can effectively run the ball and win the time of possession battle, they will neutralize what Rodgers can do.
Wilson: I predict that Green Bay will be able to hold the Falcons rushing game. The Packers have the eighth-best rush defense in the NFL. I believe Green Bay will be able to keep the defense off the field Sunday, as the Packers are fourth in the NFL in time of possession per game, while the Falcons are 17th.
The Packers are a clutch team. They are 7–3 in games decided by one possession or less. The Packers also have many clutch players, such as Rodgers and Crosby. Crosby is 92.9% on field goals and has never missed an extra point in the playoffs. Football fans know that Rodgers can always stir up some late-game magic.
Not only are the Packers a clutch team, they are also very versatile. This year, 10 Packers have receiving touchdowns, and five Packers have rushing touchdowns. They’ll challenge the Falcons to defend all of those offensive weapons.
We can’t wait for the game on Sunday!
Photographs by (from top): Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images (2); Joe Robbins/Getty Images