NFC North: Brian Williams

Early Sunday morning, I suggested that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers produced one of the best performances of a generation in a 48-21 rout of the Atlanta Falcons. Before we get pulled in to the Epicenter of Humanity, I wanted to offer some further context and background to that claim.

First up: Our friends over at Football Outsiders, who use their own methods for evaluating performances -- essentially determining the extent to which a player achieves above the league average for such circumstances. By that measure, Rodgers' performance was the fourth-best playoff game by a quarterback over the past 18 seasons.

(Earlier: Rodgers' Week 16 performance against the New York Giants was the 11th-best regular-season performance over that same span. Bill Barnwell provides further details on Saturday night's game in an ESPN Insider piece.)

Second, we've already noted that Rodgers' 86.1 completion percentage was the fifth-best mark in NFL postseason history. But as the chart shows, it was the second-best among quarterbacks who also threw for at least 300 yards. It's an important distinction because it combined efficiency with proficiency. Downfield passes, which gain more yards, are usually less likely to be completed.

Finally, Rodgers is now one of three quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era to produce a game with these parameters: At least 300 yards passing, at least 80 percent completions, at least three touchdowns and no interceptions. Here is the full list:

These facts and figures provide some footing for what seemed visually evident Saturday night. It's true that the Falcons were playing without nickelback Brian Williams. But I'm leery of attaching too much significance to the absence of a nickelback, and the Falcons were still managing a decent pass rush. Remember, they sacked Rodgers twice and he spun away from at least four other near-sacks.

Given the stage and the circumstances, and adding in a tough 7-yard run for a touchdown in the third quarter, it was as complete a performance as I've seen in person. Sometimes the adrenaline of a live event can impair judgment, but I don't think that happened in this case.

Falcons nickelback won't play

January, 15, 2011
ATLANTA -- The most interesting pregame roster maneuver at Georgia Dome left the Atlanta Falcons without their usual nickelback. Brian Williams (knee) was deactivated, and second-year player Chris Owens is expected to handle that role.

It will be interesting to see if Williams' injury compels the Green Bay Packers to use their five-receiver set. They used it 14 times in the teams' Week 12 meeting.

Meanwhile, the Packers deactivated safety Atari Bigby (groin) and fullback Korey Hall (knee). Both had been listed as questionable on the injury report.

Friday injury report: Packers-Falcons

January, 14, 2011
Getting inside the Friday injury report a day before Packers-Falcons:

Green Bay Packers: Linebacker Frank Zombo has been declared out. Safety Atari Bigby (groin) is questionable but has a good chance to be available. Offensive lineman Jason Spitz would have returned to practice Friday if the Packers had held one, and for that reason he is listed as questionable. Fullback Korey Hall (knee) is questionable, but seems to have a decent chance of being available. All other members of the 53-man roster should be available.

Atlanta Falcons: Cornerback Brian Williams (knee) is doubtful. The Falcons listed six players as questionable, but all of them participated in Friday's practice and appear on track to be available Saturday.

NFC North injury report

January, 12, 2011
Updating the injury situations for this weekend’s pair of division playoff games:

Chicago Bears: Cornerback Charles Tillman didn’t practice Wednesday because of an illness. All other players participated in at least a portion of practice.

Seattle Seahawks: Linebacker Lofa Tatupu (concussion) didn't practice and was the only player listed on the Seahawks injury report. Coach Pete Carroll told Chicago-area media that Tatupu is on track to play Sunday.

Green Bay Packers: Two players missed practice Wednesday: Linebacker Frank Zombo (knee) and offensive lineman Jason Spitz (calf). The guess is that neither will be available Saturday night. Safety Atari Bigby (groin) participated on a limited basis and has a chance to play. The Packers don’t seem to have any other significant injury concerns.

Atlanta Falcons: The only player who sat out practice was cornerback Brian Williams (knee). My NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas suggests that most everyone else on the roster is healthy.