Is the Packers/Falcons game even worth watching?
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Take yourself back to the halcyon days of January 2011: The country still had that new year smell, and the scrappy Green Bay Packers travelled to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons in the playoffs. It wasn’t much of a contest. The Packers handily won the game 48-21, and took one step closer to securing front row seats to the Christina Aguilera/Black Eyed Peas show later that February. Good times.
This Sunday, the 4-0 Packers and the 2-2 Falcons meet for the first time since that game, and though another blowout seems likely, head coach Mike McCarthy sees it as an epic showdown. The venerable host of the Mike McCarthy Show had this to say to the Associated Press: “It’s definitely going to have a playoff feel. We’re fully aware of how they feel about us. We’re definitely excited. This is going to be a hot game.”
A “hot game”? If you say so, coach. But in the interest of fairness, The A.V. Club has identified a few reasons why Sunday’s game may, in fact, be “hot,” and a few reasons why you might as well take a nap and assume the Packers kicked some ass.
Could be a hot game if...
Peter King is right. Hopefully he’s not (since no one wishes him success), but he did almost get his Super Bowl pick right last year—the Steelers made it to the big game, but then everyone knows what happened after that. This year he has the Falcons winning the Super Bowl and beating the Packers in the divisional round along the way—a reverse of last year, since he has them getting in as a wild card. As fun as it would be to stuff his prediction in Week 5, it would be even more fun to disappoint him and Atlanta in the playoffs.
Could be a snoozer if...
The Packers stay healthy between now and Sunday. It’s easy to forget just how banged-up the Packers were last year, which makes their successful Super Bowl run even more impressive. It also makes their 48-21 win over the Falcons really impressive. This season, the team is in much better shape (let’s just try to forget about Nick Collins, okay?), and Rodgers could easily repeat his performance last week against the Broncos by putting up 400-plus passing yards and throwing for four touchdowns. And while another high-scoring blowout might be fun, just how many watered-down touchdown shots do you really need?
Could be a hot game if…
The Falcons try to break the Packers’ winning streak. Here’s a fun fact: The Packers haven’t lost a game since Week 15 last December. That’s when a Rodgers-less offense put up a valiant fight against the Patriots, but ended up losing 31-27. Since then, Green Bay has won 10 games in a row (counting the postseason, of course). Sadly, all streaks must pass, and the possible end to this one could make Sunday’s game worth watching. The chances of the Packers ever matching the Patriot’s record for consecutive wins—21!—are unlikely, but 11, 12, or a baker’s dozen are certainly worth fighting for.
Could be a snoozer if…
The announcers talk about Brett Favre too much. After engendering just a bit of good will with his passable TV announcing debut last weekend, Favre dove right back into dick mode with a backhanded compliment for Rodgers, expressing surprise that Rodgers didn’t win a Super Bowl sooner. We’re just as guilty about keeping the Favre conversation going most days when we should really be leaving the man to mow his Mississippi property in peace, but on Packer Sunday, when football god Rodgers graces the field, the conversation should stick to his greatness.
Could be a hot game if…
Green Bay’s pass defense continues to blow. Here’s another fun fact: Green Bay currently ranks a dismal 31st against the pass, and has allowed a mind-numbing 335.8 yards per game. That’s a far cry from last year, when the Packers’ pass defense was ranked No. 5 in the league. But while 335.8 yards may seem like a grim prognosis, leave it to Packers.com editor Vic Ketchman to give it a positive spin. During this week’s “Video Ask Vic,” a reader named Hans asked Ketchman about the Pack’s sieve-like pass defense. Vic’s response was a thing of beauty and inspiration:
Hans, when I wake up in the morning, I’m not looking for angst. I don’t say, “Hey, Bonnie, do we have any angst? I need some angst.” Lots of angst will be coming before the day is done. I got two mortgages, two car payments, two dogs, two kids times two, but only one wallet. The Packers’ pass-defense is way down my angst list. I’m covering a team that is 4-0 and that’s a positive in my life. Let it be a positive in your life, too, Hans.
Could be a snoozer if…
Ryan Grant gets a lot of carries. He sat out of last week’s game because of a bruised kidney, which is a respectably badass injury, but he’ll be back against Atlanta, and probably looking to see a lot of action. Even though he’s posted a perfectly acceptable average of 4.9 yards per carry, there’s just something totally boring about him. More than likely, it’s our infatuation with Green Bay’s passing game and watching Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings reel in downfield bombs that’s causing our boredom with the run game, but that passing stuff is working, and it’s fun as hell to watch.