Here’s a preview of what to watch for when the Green Bay Packers visit Atlanta for a 2:05 p.m. kickoff on Sunday.
1. Everyone expects a shootout ... because it probably will be a shootout.
The Atlanta Falcons had the No. 1 offense in the NFL this season. They have dominated opponents at a historic rate. They are playing at home and should be relatively healthy.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have been on fire since their late-November win in Philadelphia. Rodgers, a two-time league Most Valuable Player, is playing the best football of his career.
Pity both defensive coordinators in this matchup as they look for ways to just slow down, let alone stop, these offensive juggernauts.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons can beat teams any way they want, be it through the air with a multifaceted passing attack or on the ground with a bruising running game. Rodgers and the Packers seemingly can roll out any combination of personnel and use your matchup tendencies against you in any way they want.
Vegas has set the Over-Under for Sunday’s game at 60.5. That’s a historic number for an NFC championship game or a Super Bowl ... and it still feels low.
2. This is a very different Packers team this time around
When the Packers faced the Falcons in late October, they were without a good number of their difference makers on offense ... and they still scored 33 points.
Randall Cobb, Ty Montgomery and Jared Cook were all in street clothes for the Oct. 30 loss in Atlanta. Each has made important contributions to the offensive explosion down the stretch for the Packers, probably none more so than Cook.
On the defensive side of the ball, both Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins missed the previous matchup. While Rollins is, as of Tuesday, still in the concussion protocol, the addition of Randall would give Dom Capers one more capable body to help deal with a Falcons passing attack that shredded the Packers defense last time around.
3. Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers look to add to legacies
McCarthy and Rodgers have been a formidable team during their time in Green Bay. They have won a ton of games, multiple division titles and won a Super Bowl together.
But for as long as they reside in the NFL’s smallest market, they will be compared to the gentlemen who came before them, most pointedly Mike Holmgren and Brett Favre. That duo was able to win a championship and return to the Super Bowl the following year, only to lose a heartbreaker to the Denver Broncos, prompting Ron Wolf to utter his famous line, "We're a one-year wonder, just a fart in the wind."
For all the success and all the winning McCarthy and Rodgers have enjoyed in Green Bay, getting to another Super Bowl and winning it would most likely cement them in Packers lore as the greatest coach-quarterback duo since Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr. Winning Sunday’s game would bring them one step closer to finally ending the second guessing from a fan base that seems to constantly measure them against the men who came before them.