I have a crazy nervous/excited feeling about Saturday night. I think the Packers are clearly the best team standing in the way of the Birds and the Super Bowl. The Bears/Seahawks winner could certainly win in the GA Dome, but the Packers scare me a lot more.
I wrote several weeks ago that the Eagles were the scariest team in the NFC, but they went in the tank in 11 of their last 12 quarters. I still think that the Falcons will win and their dominance in the GA Dome will continue and Saturday's game will result in the 1st NFC Championship game in Atlanta.
As with most years, teams that can run the ball and stop the run have advanced and are likely to advance. The Colts and Saints had their already "iffy" ground games stymied by injuries and were eliminated in the wild-card round. The Ravens shut down KC's running game, holding them to just 108 yards (41 on the Charles TD run), and it is no coincidence that when James Starks stepped up for 123 yards, the Packers were able to control the ball and beat the Eagles (1 rushing yards).
Aaron Rodgers and his arsenal of receiving weapons are definitely capable of putting up huge numbers and points, but GB ranked 24th in the league in rushing this year, and was just 18th in rushing defense. I think GB has the best D in the NFC, but like in the regular season match-up they will have to commit an extra man to contain Turner and Snelling. This should open up the passing game and I think Michael Jenkins is a guy that needs to go for 5+ catches and 65+ yards.
The Atlanta running game ranked 12th in the league and their rushing D was 10th. I don't think Starks gets over 50 yards in the game as I think the GB run game will be completely taken away. Again, it is very tough to win in the NFL, especially the playoffs, if you can't run the ball.
Before the season, I picked GB over Atlanta in the NFCCG and then had GB losing to Baltimore. However, I like the Falcons at this point at home playing GB without Ryan Grant and a consistent running game. It won't be easy and Matt Ryan has yet to win a playoff game, but I am picking the Falcons, 26-24.
Chicago 27 - Seattle 17
Baltimore 17 - Pittsburgh 16
New England 28 - Jets 17