Falcons will score plenty, but can they slow Aaron Rodgers?

Aaron Rodgers can beat the Falcons in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Credit: Michael Cunningham

Credit: Michael Cunningham

Aaron Rodgers can beat the Falcons in a shootout. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

I figured the Falcons would beat the Seahawks but didn't think they would make it look so easy. Seattle had some injuries, sure, but the Falcons dominated a good defense (and not for the first time). That was a great victory.

There doesn’t seem to be a D that can slow the Falcons much if they don’t turn the ball over. Certainly not Green Bay’s flawed unit, so really the only question is if the Falcons can get enough stops to win Sunday's NFC championship game at the Dome.

The D was the only reservation I had about the Falcons when pegging them as NFC contenders in December. That nagging feeling is back again with red-hot Aaron Rodgers coming to town.  Everybody knows Seattle isn't nearly good enough to keep up with the Falcons in a shootout but no one doubts the Packers can do it.

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Rodgers flummoxed the Falcons at the Dome in October before they finally solved him on a pair of key stops late. The Packers were so thin at running back for that game that they pretty much gave up trying to run. Rodgers still kept slipping away and making plays—all four of his TD passes were delivered outside of the pocket.  Rodgers put the Packers ahead with four minutes left before Matt Ryan answered with a game-winning drive.

The Packers are healthier now (with the important exception of top wide receiver Jordy Nelson) and Rodgers is in top form. The Falcons played Green Bay in game eight, and the counterpoint to Rodgers putting it on them again is that they played better defense over the season's second half.

That’s true. Also true: the Falcons played weaker offensive opponents over those eight games. The 49ers, Rams, Cardinals and Panthers were bad this season offensively. The Chiefs were average, the Eagles and Bucs were just OK. The Saints were a very good offensive team and the Falcons slowed them down . . . until they didn’t.

The Falcons gave up 255 yards and three touchdowns to the Saints in the fourth quarter of that W. Did the Falcons relax, as it appeared, or did Drew Brees find their soft spots once the Saints fell behind and he started slinging it? Either way, the reality is that Falcons played two great offensive opponents over the final eight weeks and both lit them up.

Now here Rodgers again, and he’s back in MVP form. At Dallas Rodgers again proved that he’s never out of it. Rodgers scrambled left and delivered a 35-yard pass to Jared Cook on third-and-20 to set up the winning field goal at the gun. It was his eighth completion of 30-plus yards in the final minute of the half over the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Rodgers passed for 355 yards and two TDs against the Cowboys. he went for 362 yards and four touchdowns against the Giants' elite defense in Green Bay's 38-13 wild-card victory. Over the final six regular-season games Rodgers completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,667 yards with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Falcons are at home and favored by four points, which seems about right. But Rodgers can match them score for score if the game goes that way. Can the Falcons' defense get enough stops to win a shootout? If it comes to it, can the Falcons close out the game against an all-time great QB who is so hard to close out?

For the Falcons, a second Super Bowl trip may be riding on the answer.