Forgotten Falcons. The Falcons can take some comfort in being at home, where they were 7-1 this season, and that they beat Green Bay in a regular-season meeting in late November. But the Packers aren’t the same team they were in late November. They’re better. After getting two must-win games at the end of the regular season and defeating Philadelphia in the opening round of the playoffs last week, the Packers are the “hot’’ team right now. With a first-round bye, Atlanta has somewhat become a forgotten team in the national media. The Falcons can change all that by going out and doing the things they did to earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
Defense wins championships. When you think of the Falcons, you think of Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. But I’ve got a hunch those offensive guys won’t be the most important people in the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. I think this game’s going to be similar to the November regular-season meeting between the Falcons and Packers. Atlanta won that game 17-14 and the Falcons played one of their best defensive games of the year. I think they need to do something similar this time, and the guy I’m going to be keeping an eye on is John Abraham. With a week of rest, I expect Abraham to be able to put some pressure on Aaron Rodgers. Abraham had 13 sacks in the regular season, and he’s getting near the end of his career. He’s got a shot at the Hall of Fame, but his résumé would look dramatically better if the Falcons won this game, the NFC championship and at least made it to the Super Bowl.
Next man up. With veteran cornerback Brian Williams dealing with a knee injury, the Falcons may have to turn to Christopher Owens as their nickelback. A second-year pro, Owens has had some playing time at nickelback this season, but he hasn’t thrived. He’s undersized and isn’t known for being a very physical defender. That could make him a target for the Green Bay offense.