If it's GameDay, we need things to watch. Thank goodness our friends in the Main Stream Media are here to help:
1. MATTY ICE: Atlanta third-year quarterback Matt Ryan is nicknamed "Matty Ice" because he's so cool under pressure. Ryan is calm, composed, well-respected and is on his way to becoming one of the league's elite quarterbacks. Like Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, though, Ryan has yet to win a playoff game - something that would certainly enhance his résumé.
2. TURNER THE BURNER: Falcons running back Michael Turner is enjoying a bounce-back season. Turner ran for nearly 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2008, then missed five games with an ankle injury a year ago. Turner is terrific between the tackles and does a lot of his damage after contact.
3. STREAKING: Green Bay has won 14 of its last 18 regular season games dating back to Nov. 15, 2009. In that time, the Packers have winning streaks of four and five games. The Packers' four losses have been by a total of 10 points, and they haven't lost a game by more than three points.
4. GETTING DEFENSIVE: Green Bay's last three opponents have scored a total of 10 points. The last time the Packers did that in a three-game stretch was Nov. 10-24, 1974. This run has helped Green Bay surge to a tie for No. 1 with Chicago in scoring defense.
5. IN GOOD HANDS: Back in 2008, the Falcons hired former Patriots director of college scouting Thomas Dimitroff to be their general manager and unknown Mike Smith as their head coach. Atlanta proceeded to have consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history and now have the NFC's best record at 8-2. Dimitroff learned well at the hands of Bill Belichick, while Smith was a coaching steal in the 2008 off-season. The pair appear to have Atlanta poised for terrific things.
1. Gonzalez could slip through
Though Tony Gonzalez at age 34 is no longer is the NFL’s best tight end, he remains a troublesome matchup because of his big frame (6-5, 251) and still-impressive athletic ability. With the attention the NFL’s leading receiver, Roddy White, is likely to occupy, the Packers could be vulnerable to a big day from Gonzalez. If defensive coordinator Dom Capers matches cornerback Charles Woodson on White most of the time, Gonzalez probably will face linebackers A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop and Brandon Chillar, and safeties Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah. Advantage Atlanta.
2. No-huddle difficulties
This is the first time the Packers will see an offense that goes no-huddle regularly. Though the Georgia Dome will be loud, noise shouldn’t be a problem because Atlanta’s fans will stay relatively quiet when their team has the ball. But the no-huddle still creates difficulties; most notably, it’s usually too frantic for the defense to substitute between plays. If the Falcons get the Packers into their nickel package, they can pound halfback Michael Turner against that pass-oriented personnel and make it difficult for Capers to go back to his base defense. The Packers will have to be flexible enough to stop the run with passing personnel and the pass with running personnel.
3. Turnover battle
The Packers have helped themselves immensely by winning the turnover battle — they’re No. 5 in the NFL in turnover differential (plus-8) — but they can’t count on prevailing there this week. Atlanta is tied for No. 2 with a plus-10 differential, and their quarterback, Matt Ryan, has thrown only five interceptions in 10 games. Sometimes you have to keep teams off the scoreboard with stops alone, and this looks like one of those games.
Jason Wilde hasn't yet mastered the art of keeping his 5 Things To Watch brief enough for inclusion. The guy could turn instructions on how to open a box of cereal into War and Peace. Just click the link.
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