Sports

NFC championship preview: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons

The particulars

  • Opponent: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
  • Time: 12:05 p.m., Sunday
  • Line: Falcons by 6 (O/U 60)
  • TV/radio: Ch. 40 (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Erin Andrews), 1140

Three things to watch

RODGERS VS. RYAN

Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers are leading MVP candidates, along with New England quarterback Tom Brady and Dallas rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott. It’s easy to see why. Ryan had the best season of his nine-year career, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He didn’t let up in his first game of the playoffs, lighting up the Seahawks for 338 yards and three TDs. Ryan has gone five straight games without throwing a pick. Rodgers had an NFL-leading 40 touchdown passes during the regular season, and he has thrown for more than 300 yards in his first two playoff outings. His most recent pass might have been his best. Rolling to his left, he hit Jared Cook on a 36-yard completion along the sideline, setting up Mason Crosby’s 51-yard field goal on the final play to stun the Cowboys 34-31.

MATTHEWS VS. MATTHEWS

Keep an eye on the family matchup between Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews and Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews. The cousins were denied a chance to square off during the regular season. Clay Matthews was injured and didn’t play in Atlanta’s 33-32 victory. Both Matthews are ready to go in this one. Clay had five sacks during the regular season, while Jake is the chief protector of Ryan’s blind side. “Anytime you get to play with or against family, those are going to be the games that, when it’s all said and done, I’ll remember the best,” Jake Matthews said.

DEFENSE VS. DEFENSE

If defense wins championships, these teams wouldn’t have gotten nearly this far. Both rank near the bottom of the league in most of the major categories, but their dynamic offenses helped cover up the shortcomings. The Falcons’ defense actually has shown significant improvement late in the season, not unexpected for a young group that starts as many as four rookies. Against the Seahawks, Atlanta surrendered a long touchdown on the opening possession, then kept Seattle out of the end zone until the closing minutes. Green Bay is dealing with a battered secondary that managed to contain Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants in the wild-card game but was torched by Cowboys star Dez Bryant.

The Associated Press

Injury report

PACKERS

▪ Out: RB James Starks (concussion), C J.C. Tretter (knee).

▪ Questionable: WR Davante Adams (ankle), WR Geronimo Allison (hamstring), S Morgan Burnett (quadriceps), WR Jordy Nelson (ribs, illness), CB Quinten Rollins (neck, concussion).

FALCONS

▪ Out/Questionable: No players listed.

Packers’ NFC championship games

DATE

OPPONENT

OUTCOME

Jan. 14, 1996

at Dallas Cowboys

L, 38-27

Jan. 12, 1997

vs. Carolina Panthers

W, 30-13

Jan. 20, 2008

vs. New York Giants

L, 23-20 (OT)

Jan. 23, 2011

at Chicago Bears

W, 21-14

Jan. 18, 2015

at Seattle Seahawks

L, 28-22

Falcons’ NFC championship games

DATE

OPPONENT

OUTCOME

Jan. 17, 1999

at Minnesota Vikings

W, 30-27 (OT)

Jan. 23, 2005

at Philadelphia Eagles

L, 27-10

Jan. 20, 2013

vs. 49ers

L, 28-24

Note: NFC championship games started in 1971

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