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Packers and Falcons Battle For NFC Supremacy

Much was made of Matt Ryan’s gaudy 18-1 record in the Georgia Dome during the last Falcons game on Thursday night. That record is correct. I dug inside it a little though, and while it is true that the Falcons have played well at home with Matt Ryan at quarterback, that number is inflated by some luck and good scheduling.

While the Falcons have had a large home/road split under Ryan, at least part of that is explained by who they played, and where.  The Falcons have played far tougher road opponents than home ones since 2008.  Only one of those 18 victories so far is over a team that reached the playoffs (2008, Carolina) though the close victories over Tampa and Baltimore may also qualif this year.  Ryan was also hurt last year when the Falcons played and lost to both the Saints and Eagles at home, and so he missed probably the two toughest home games, besides this week’s matchup against Green Bay.  The home opponents in the Ryan era have a 0.390 winning percentage in all games, while the road opponents are at 0.541.

The Falcons with Ryan have also won more than their share of close games at home, going 9-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less.  Perhaps there is something to that, but perhaps not.  Atlanta will have home field advantage, and it will provide some advantage in this game, but don’t go overboard thinking Atlanta is somehow invincible at home when they have Ryan in the lineup.

This should be a great matchup that could very well decide the NFC #1 seed.  Green Bay leads the league in point differential, and already has a tiebreaker win over Philadelphia, and a home game against Chicago remaining.  If they win this one on the road, they could hold all the key tiebreakers.  Atlanta can become the only NFC team to get to 9-2 with a win.  The Falcons have been a well-coached solid team, with a +10 turnover margin.  They have also benefited from some luck to get to 8-2, as opponents have only made 9 field goals against them all year, and had 9 misses, none bigger than Garrett Hartley’s overtime chip shot.   Aaron Rodgers should have opportunity to make plays against Atlanta, but will need to avoid the big turnovers that have keyed Atlanta’s success.  The Packers offensive line will also have to find a way to neutralize John Abraham.  On the other side, the Packers have been very stout against the run, and generate good pressure with Clay Matthews.  Green Bay will try to be the rare team that controls Roddy White, even though we know where the ball is going.

Other games at 1 p.m.:

Minnesota at Washington: Leslie Frazier coaches his first game against the inconsistent Redskins.

Jacksonville at New York Giants: Jacksonville looks to continue their run, while the Giants will try to exploit the Jaguars’ weak pass defense without both Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks.

Pittsburgh at Buffalo:  The Bills have won two in a row, but face a tough challenge if the Steelers make them one dimensional by shutting down the running game, like they have done to opponents all year.

Carolina at Cleveland: Carolina is so bad, and Cleveland should be able to control the game.  It will be a matter of showing up emotionally for the Browns after two consecutive tough losses.

Tennessee at Houston: Rusty Smith gets his first start on the road as a rookie, and will need to take advantage of the Texans’ horrible pass defense.  The Titans will try to rely on a pretty good defense and ball control with Chris Johnson to continue the Houston slide.

[photo via Getty]

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