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2017 NFC Championship Game Live: Green Bay Packers v. Atlanta Falcons

Aaron Rodgers leads the Cheeseheads into Atlanta to take on Matt Ryan and the Dirty Birds. Chit-chat about the game here.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
This time around, it might be Rodgers consoling Ryan.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

So last week Aaron Rodgers made one of the best plays of the 2016 NFL season to put his team in a position to play in today’s game.

This week, he’s attempting to put the Packers in a position to win their fifth Super Bowl. Before then, however, he’s got to face Matt Ryan’s Falcons, who are flying high after a hugely successful season, in Atlanta.

These two teams faced off earlier this season, with the Falcons winning the game 33-32. Since then, the Falcons have continued to play well, while the Packers have improved by leaps and bounds. This game should be an offensive shootout, between one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game and a man who might finally be getting some national respect for his talents.

The Packers have been battling a bug that’s been going around their locker room, but Jordy Nelson is expected to be available, as should Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison. Having them available (plus a resurgent Jared Cook, who shook off the stink of the Rams), should help Rodgers maintain his rhythm, as will a Packers’ offensive line that blocks for an insane amount of time (so Aaron can work his magic). Just in case any of Rodgers’ offensive weapons are hindered, Ted Thompson took the step of adding Max McCaffrey to the roster, though he may not be active for today’s game. On the defensive side of the ball, Morgan Burnett should be able to go. All of this suggests that the Packers are getting healthy and getting hot at the right time (fourth week byes are brutal). The outcome of the game may be different from Week Eight, when the Pack were missing Eddie Lacy, Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb.

On the others side of the field, the Falcons and Matt Ryan hope for a repeat of the result of Week Eight. Several years ago, Ryan went public with his frustration about the national media overlooking his talent, wondering what he needed to do so to get the same respect given to Brady, Rodgers, Big Ben, Peyton and Eli. Winning an NFC Championship Game, even if his team cannot win the Super Bowl, would go a long way towards helping that cause.

The Falcons might be in win-now mode since offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is likely to ply his trade as a head coach for the 49ers next season. Dan Quinn has done a solid job of team-building in his time in Atlanta, bringing in Mohamed Sanu to add to Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman, and shoring up a defense that has underperformed in the past.

However, the Falcons’ recent defensive prowess might be more a case of picking on low-hanging fruit (in their past five games, they’ve faced Jared Goff’s Rams, a 49ers team in their death spiral, Cam Newton at his absolute (we hope) worst, and the Seahawks’ self-sabotaging offensive line). This week they face Aaron Rodgers, and they face him with the third-worst red zone defense among any team since 2000. If the Packers win, Rodgers in the red zone might have a lot to do with it.

Should be a good one. Talk about Packers-Falcons with fellow fans here on BRB.