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The Packers and Falcons will meet Saturday night in the Georgia Dome for what many will consider to be the de facto NFC Championship game.  The same teams met in the same place in week 12 with the home team winning 20-17 on a Matt Bryant field goal with nine seconds left in the game.  Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to major yardage, with 344 yards passing and 51 yards on the ground, but not enough scoring for a win.  Matt Ryan and Roddy White were relatively quiet while Michael Turner gained 110 yards on 23 carries.

Georgia Dome

The Georgia Dome will see an explosive game on Saturday night.

The Packers won a tight game in Philadelphia over the NFC East champion Eagles last Sunday.  Rodgers was solid but it was rookie running back James Starks who made the difference.  He racked up a surprising 123 yards on 23 carries.

While the Packers were battling to hold on against the Eagles the Falcons were home waiting to see who their next opponent would be.  At 13-3, Atlanta had a great year and won the NFC South behind the three-headed monster of Ryan, Turner and White.

The Packers win if: Their defense can keep Turner contained on first and second down.  Green Bay’s run defense is just 18th in the NFL and it hurt them in the first game against Atlanta.  They played the run well against Philadelphia last week, giving up just 49 yards on 13 carries to running backs.

The Falcons win if: They can slow down the Packers potent passing game.  The Falcons have not played the pass real well, ranking 22nd in the NFL in pass defense.  They rank only 20th in the NFL in sacks.  They’ll need to pressure Rodgers and excel in coverage to beat Green Bay.

Who do I like: Falcons 34-30

Why: This will be a shootout.  I think the Falcons defense will be able to stop the Packers running game and not allow Starks to break through for another big day.  I expect John Abraham to apply the pressure on Rodgers and the Falcons secondary to do just enough to slow down the Packers passing game.  I think Turner will put forth another solid effort and take some of the pressure off Ryan.  I would not be surprised to see Eric Weems break a big return.

Who do you like in this NFC heavyweight matchup?  Let me know your thoughts on the game in the comments section below.

Photo source: Chrisjnelson at en.wikipedia

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There are two huge battles in the NFC on Sunday, Green Bay at Atlanta and Philadelphia at Chicago.  I’m going to start my week 12 NFL previews by evaluating the Packers-Falcons game – a matchup that I think could go a long way toward determining who has home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs.

At 7-3 the Packers are a tiebreaker behind the also 7-3 Bears in the NFC North.  After starting the season at 3-3 they’ve settled in and won four in a row.  That streak includes an extremely impressive 9-0 shutout of the Jets in New York (New Jersey).  In their last two wins Green Bay has absolutely throttled their opponent, leading to the firing of that opponent’s head coach.

Atlanta Falcons in the Shotgun

Will the Packers pass rush get to Matty Ice?

Atlanta brings a four game winning streak to the Georgia Dome on Sunday as well.  If you look even further down their schedule they’ve won eight of their last nine.  I was not buying the Falcons until I watched them play the Ravens.  During that game they convinced me that they have everything it takes to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.

The Packers win if: Their pass rush can bring down Matt Ryan.  This matchup is strength versus strength.  The Packers are fourth in the NFL with 29 sacks while the Falcons are tied for fifth in the NFL having allowed only 15 sacks.  Clay Matthews is going to have to introduce himself to Ryan early.

The Falcons win if: They contain the Packers passing game.  Atlanta’s secondary is less than stellar and they are currently ranked 24th in the NFL against the pass.  Aaron Rodgers has thrown seven touchdowns and zero interceptions in the last two games.  The Falcons have to keep the Green Bay receivers out of the end zone.

Who do I like: Falcons 31-27

Why: This is a spectacular matchup.  I think both teams will rack up the yardage.  Rodgers will exploit the Falcons secondary but I think the Atlanta defense will hold up a little better in the red zone than the Green Bay defense.  To me the difference is that the Falcons have a much more dangerous running game that they can employ inside the 20.  However, I will say that I don’t think the Falcons can rely on their home field advantage as much as they can against other teams.  With wins at Philadelphia, New York and Minnesota the Packers have proven they can win on the road.

Do you think the Packers can upset the Falcons?  Let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Photo source: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

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NFL Week 10 opened with a bang on Thursday night with the Ravens and Falcons putting on quite a show that came right down to the last minute.  And it was entertaining in between, with two overtime games, two statement wins (Dolphins and Bears) and a couple of big surprises (Broncos and Cowboys).  Now it will be capped off with two critical battles, the Patriots versus the Steelers and the Eagles at the Redskins.

Falcon

The falcon was the mightier bird on Thursday night

As the Patriots-Steelers game is being played, here are the Average Guy NFL Week 10 Awards:

Most Impressive Win

Atlanta Falcons – 26-21 over the Baltimore Ravens

Most Important Win

Miami Dolphins – 29-17 over the Tennessee Titans

Worst Loss

Houston Texans – 24-31 at Jacksonville Jaguars

Biggest Surprise

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest Disappointment

Kansas City Chiefs

Offensive MVP

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons – 32 completions 50 attempts 316 yards 3 TDs 101.8 QB rating

Defensive MVP

Mario Haggan, Denver Broncos – 3 sacks 6 tackles

Special Teams MVP

Devin Hester, Chicago Bears – 2 kickoff returns for 100 yards 2 punt returns for 47 yards

Most Surprising Performance

Fred Jackson, Buffalo Bills – 25 carries 133 yards 1 TD 6 receptions 37 yards 1 TD

Most Disappointing Performance

Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings – 18 completions 31 attempts 170 yards 1 TD 3 interceptions 44.5 QB rating

Offensive Rookie

Colt McCoy, Cleveland Browns – 18 completions 31 attempts 205 yards 1 TD 0 interceptions 88.8 QB rating

Defensive Rookie

Bryan McCann, Dallas Cowboys – 101-yard interception return TD, 5 tackles

Most Impressive Performance in a Loss

Matt Cassel, Kansas City Chiefs – 35 completions 53 attempts 469 yards 4 TDs 116.0 QB rating

Welcome Back Mike Williams

Mike Williams, Seattle Seahawks – 11 receptions 145 yards

Quick Takes

  • I watched the entire Ravens-Falcons game on Thursday night and I was really glad that I did.  It was a very entertaining game with two teams that are among the best in the NFL.
  • Matt Ryan was spectacular.  I’ve really been doubting him all season.  After seeing him play on Thursday night I’ve done a complete 180.  His accuracy was really impressive.  His control of the game was superb and he was masterful in bringing his team back for a win for the fifth time this season.
  • I now believe that the Falcons could absolutely represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.  Beyond Ryan, I was especially impressed with both of their lines.  The O-line protected Ryan very well and the D-line was disruptive on almost every play Baltimore ran.
  • The Ravens cannot be happy with Michael Oher’s progress at left tackle.  He was victimized repeatedly by John Abraham.  My notes from the Ravens-Patriots game earlier this season also show him performing poorly.
  • I was surprised the Ravens didn’t go to Ray Rice more often.
  • Looking at today’s games – I’m really impressed with the way the Denver run defense completely turned around against the Chiefs.  They are ranked 31st in the NFL against the run but managed to hold the number one ranked rushing offense to 51 yards on 22 carries.
  • I often like to point to the third down conversion numbers as one of the most important statistics to watch.  This week’s example is the Vikings-Bears game.  Minnesota struggled to convert third downs, finishing one of nine.  Meanwhile Chicago converted 11 of 19.
  • I love the Rams but there are some ugly stats from their game with the Niners today.  The two teams combined to convert a miserable two of 25 third downs.  They were also flagged a total of 26 times for penalties.

One BIG Question

After showing so much promise early, are the Texans now done?

What surprises and disappointment stick out the most to you in week 10?  Let me know by posting a comment below.

Photo source: mikebaird

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The NFL is a quarterback-driven league.  Most often, the teams with the best quarterbacks are the teams that have the best records.  This is especially true in today’s pass happy NFL.  In the past couple of decades it has been a very rare occasion that a team without a star quarterback has won the Super Bowl.

Lombardi Trophies

You need a great QB to win one of these

So at the halfway point of the 2010 NFL season what teams have gotten the most out of the quarterback position?

  1. Indianapolis Colts – Peyton Manning
    Without much run support and with an average offensive line at best, Manning has led the Colts to a 5-2 record while throwing 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions.  He’s also made the most of an injury-plagued receiving corps.  Even though he may have lost a tick he’s still the elite quarterback in the NFL.
  2. San Diego Chargers – Philip Rivers
    Although he’s not one of my favorites, Rivers deserves his props.  While his team has struggled to a 3-5 start he’s been steady, leading the NFL with an average of 331 yards passing per game.  Like Manning, he’s had to deal with a receiving corps that’s been decimated by injury.  Still, he’s put up the third best quarterback rating (98.9) in the NFL through the first eight weeks.
  3. Denver Broncos – Kyle Orton
    Orton’s been nothing less than spectacular for the Broncos.  He’s second to Rivers in averaging 314 yards per game.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only five interceptions against defenses that have not had to respect the Denver running game at all.
  4. New England Patriots – Tom Brady
    Efficiency is the key for Brady.  He’s completed 65% of his passes.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  But, he’s averaging only 229 yards passing per game.  Maybe most importantly though he’s led New England to the best record in the NFL.
  5. New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees
    He’s thrown a frightening 11 interceptions but Brees has also completed 71% of his passes and has thrown a league leading 16 touchdowns while trying to make up for the loss of the Saints top two running backs.
  6. Atlanta Falcons – Matt Ryan
    Ryan’s quiet consistency has been a key to Atlanta’s 5-2 start.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 62% of his passes for an average of 245 yards per game.
  7. Philadelphia Eagles – Michael Vick and Kevin Kolb
    Combined Vick and Kolb have thrown for 12 touchdowns with only four interceptions.  They’ve completed nearly 63% of their passes.  Two of the Eagles three losses have come when one of the quarterbacks were knocked out of the game.  With two quarterbacks with such differing skill sets as Vick and Kolb it is hard to adjust the game plan on the fly if one has to substitute for the other.
  8. Tennessee Titans – Vince Young and Kerry Collins
    The Titans have not exactly been racking up the yards through the air.  They rank 24th in the NFL at 187.6 yards passing per game.  But Young and Collins have combined for 14 touchdowns and five interceptions while helping Tennessee start the season at 5-3.
  9. Houston Texans – Matt Schaub
    Schaub has been steady but not spectacular and has not matched up to his 2009 season.  He’s completing 63% of his passes but only has 10 touchdowns compared to six interceptions.
  10. Baltimore Ravens – Joe Flacco
    Playing against top competition gets Flacco the benefit of the doubt.  His numbers are just okay – 59% completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, six interceptions and 236 yards passing per game.
  11. New York Giants – Eli Manning
    His 11 interceptions send off sirens, but in fairness to Manning many of them went through his receivers hands or were tipped.  Otherwise, he’s completing an excellent 66% of his passes while throwing 14 touchdowns and averaging 255 yards per game.
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Josh Freeman and Josh Johnson
    Freeman has a very impressive six 4th quarter comebacks in just 16 starts, including two in a row.  He’s only thrown three interceptions to eight touchdowns while leading the Bucs to a 5-2 record.
  13. Kansas City Chiefs – Matt Cassel
    He hasn’t lost games for the Chiefs but he really hasn’t won games for them either.  He does have a respectable 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.  He’s only completing 59% of his passes though while throwing for 171 yards per game.
  14. Detroit Lions – Shaun Hill, Matthew Stafford and Drew Stanton
    The trio has combined for 14 touchdowns and an average of more than 250 yards per game.  To the negative they’ve thrown nine interceptions.
  15. Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
    It’s hard to believe that Rodgers could be this low but he’s thrown nine interceptions to only 12 touchdowns while completing 61% of his passes for an average of 251 yards per game.
  16. Cincinnati Bengals – Carson Palmer
    He was pretty atrocious early on but Palmer has rallied some through the middle of the season.  He has 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ben Roethlisberger, Charlie Batch and Dennis Dixon
    Roethlisberger’s four game suspension necessitated the starts for Batch and Dixon.  Roethlisberger has played quite well but their production at the position in the first four games was putrid.
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars – David Garrard, Todd Bouman, Trent Edwards and Luke McCown
    This foursome has thrown 15 touchdowns while completing nearly 64% of their passes.  The key contributor of course has been Garrard who has completed 68% of his passes for 13 touchdowns.  But his interceptions are high (7) and his yards per game are low (157).
  19. Miami Dolphins – Chad Henne
    As he continues to find his rhythm with Brandon Marshall, Henne is developing into a solid NFL quarterback.  He’s completed 63% of his passes for an average of 238 yards per game.  Interceptions have been his achilles heel.  He has seven, compared to eight touchdowns.
  20. New York Jets – Mark Sanchez
    He’s a polarizing figure among NFL talking heads and Sanchez has probably seen more ups and downs than any other quarterback in the league.  His nine touchdowns to four interceptions ratio is good but he’s only completed 53% of his throws for an average of 194 yards per game.
  21. St. Louis Rams – Sam Bradford
    As I’ve written before, one thing is for sure, when he actually has some weapons Bradford is going to be nasty.  The fact that he’s led the Rams to four wins in eight games counts for a lot.  He’s already thrown 11 touchdowns.  His eight interceptions are not good nor is his 59% completion percentage.  However, much of that can be put on that receiving corps.
  22. Buffalo Bills – Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards
    There’s a lot to like about Fitzpatrick.  He’s thrown 12 touchdowns to just five interceptions.  He’s completed 60% of his passes for 240 yards per game.  But the outings of Edwards have to count here and so does the Bills 0-7 record.
  23. Dallas Cowboys – Tony Romo and Jon Kitna
    Maybe this isn’t fair to Romo.  After all he did complete nearly 70% of his passes, threw 11 touchdowns and had numerous drops by receivers.  But Romo also threw some critical interceptions, Kitna has been less than mediocre and the Cowboys are 1-6.
  24. Oakland Raiders – Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski
    Campbell and Gradkowski have combined to throw 10 touchdowns and average 197.5 passing yards per game.  Their interceptions are high (8) and their completion percentage is low (54.8) but they have led the Raiders to four wins.
  25. Washington Redskins – Donovan McNabb
    It pains me to put McNabb this low but the stats are the stats.  He’s only completing 57% of his passes and has thrown eight interception to seven touchdowns.
  26. San Francisco 49ers – Alex Smith, Troy Smith and David Carr
    Across the pond the 49ers got a good performance from Troy Smith.  Alex Smith has been mediocre at best, completing 59% of his throws for nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.  Carr was predictably awful in a short relief stint.
  27. Seattle Seahawks – Matt Hasselbeck
    The Seahawks are 4-3 but Hasselbeck has played predominantly poorly.  He’s completed only 57% of his passes.  He also has seven interceptions to just six touchdowns.
  28. Minnesota Vikings – Brett Favre and Tavaris Jackson
    It’s hard to believe Favre is the same guy who threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions last season.  He’s already thrown 11 interceptions through seven games with only seven touchdowns.
  29. Cleveland Browns – Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace and Jake Delhomme
    I’ve been saying this for years – Delhomme is just plain awful.  Wallace has been decent and McCoy has been okay in managing games.
  30. Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler and Todd Collins
    Collins set quarterback play back centuries in just one game.  Cutler has been brutalized but is completing 61% of his passes and averaging 247 yards through the air per game.  He’s evened up at seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
  31. Arizona Cardinals – Derek Anderson and Max Hall
    These two have been atrocious.  They’ve combined to complete less than 53% of their passes and have thrown 12 interceptions with five touchdowns.
  32. Carolina Panthers – Matt Moore and Jimmy Clausen
    After the past few years Panthers fans are used to poor performances at quarterback.  This season they are at an all time low though.  Moore and Clausen have thrown a league-worst 13 interceptions and have completed 52.2% of their passes, also worst in the NFL. 

What do you think of my list?  Who would you rank higher and who would you rank lower?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Photo source: daveynin

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