8:00 PM ET, January 15, 2011
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
While the Pro Bowler got his wish as Atlanta locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and avoided the potentially arctic Green Bay weather, the Falcons will have faced plenty of blustery conditions by the time their divisional matchup against the Packers starts Saturday night at the Georgia Dome.
Leading the NFC-best Falcons into their first home playoff game in exactly six years, third-year quarterback Matt Ryan looks for his first postseason victory as Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks to build on his first playoff win.
Matt Bryant kicked a 47-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining, and the Falcons (13-3) won 20-17 on Nov. 28 in just their second home game versus Green Bay in 18 years.
"I have no plans of going to Lambeau Field in January," White said following the victory. "I plan on staying right here and sleeping in my own bed in the playoffs."
Despite Atlanta finishing the regular season with nine wins in its last 10 games and earning a first-round bye, several members of the team have not had that luxury this week after a storm blanketed northern Georgia with several inches of snow and ice Sunday night and Monday.
"I've been here since Sunday morning so I haven't left the facility," coach Mike Smith said Tuesday. "... The guys have managed it. We've done a really good job in terms of carpooling. We've had a bunch of guys making sure that they're riding in together. We want to try to keep the week as normal as possible so we wanted these guys to go home if they wanted to."
When Smith and the NFC South champs take the field Saturday, it will be their first home playoff game since a 47-17 divisional round victory over St. Louis on Jan. 15, 2005.
Two seasons ago in Ryan's first playoff game, the Falcons fell 30-24 at Arizona in the wild-card round. The third-year quarterback, 20-2 at home during his career, is expecting a different result at the Georgia Dome.
"I think the dome has been a tough place for teams to come in and play this year," Ryan, who set career highs with 3,705 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, told the Falcons' official website. "The atmosphere has been electric. I think specifically for us offensively, it's a benefit to be at home."
Rodgers and the sixth-seeded Packers (11-6) will not have that benefit, needing three road victories to advance to the Super Bowl. Green Bay took its first step toward that goal as cornerback Tramon Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone with 33 seconds remaining Sunday to seal a 21-16 win over Philadelphia.
It was the Packers' first road playoff win in five tries and their first postseason victory with someone other than Brett Favre starting under center since Jan. 8, 1983.
"I never felt like there was a monkey on my back," Rodgers said after throwing for 180 yards and three scores. "I'm just so proud of these guys."
Looking for a viable replacement since starter Ryan Grant was injured in Week 1, Rodgers and the Packers were especially proud of running back James Starks, who set a franchise rookie playoff record by rushing for 123 yards. The sixth-round pick ran for 101 in three regular-season appearances.
"With the way they're running the football, they have a chance to be even more multidimensional," Smith said. "They ran the ball probably as effectively as they've run it all season."
The Packers' defense, which held Michael Vick and the Eagles to 81 yards on the ground Sunday, could be tested against Pro Bowl running back Michael Turner, who finished with the league's third-highest rushing total with 1,371 yards and was tied for fourth with 12 TDs.
"Very strong legs, hard to tackle," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said of Turner, who had two red zone fumbles over the final two games. "... (Offensive coordinator) Mike Mularkey does an excellent job with the run schemes and trying to break down your force in who's tackling him and how they block the force defender and so forth. It's an excellent mix of running style and scheme."
This will be the first time these teams meet in Atlanta in the postseason. In their last playoff matchup, the Falcons won 27-7 on Jan. 4, 2003, to hand the Packers their first home playoff loss since the NFL instituted a postseason in 1933.
Packers-Falcons: 10 observations
After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Packers-Falcons matchup.
1. Handle a tough place to play: Five of the Packers' six losses came on the road this season, and they have essentially played three playoff games in a row to qualify for the postseason. Now they are operating on a short week. Atlanta lost only one game at home this year and should be quite fresh for this contest. The Falcons were 3-3 against 2010 playoff teams, but they do have a substantial special-teams advantage. Only two teams turned the ball over less than Atlanta. The Falcons were the least-penalized team in the NFL this season, and Green Bay was not far behind. These teams met in Week 12 in Atlanta; the Falcons won 20-17 on a Matt Bryant field goal with nine seconds on the clock.
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|Avg Points Allowed||18.5||48.0|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||GB|
|Rush Yds Allowed||GB|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Atlanta leads 4-3|
|Nov 28, 2010||GB 17, @ATL 20|
|Oct 5, 2008||GB 24, ATL 27|
|Nov 13, 2005||GB 33, @ATL 25|
|Jan 4, 2003||GB 7, ATL 27|
|Sep 8, 2002||GB 37, ATL 34|
|Nov 18, 2001||GB 20, ATL 23|
Matt Ryan will be starting his first career HOME postseason game Saturday night when the Falcons host the Packers. Ryan's win percentage at the Georgia Dome is .909, compared to just .520 on the road (including the playoffs).[+]
Georgia Dome Comfort Zone - NFL Career (Including Playoffs)
ESPN Stats & Information