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Packers-Falcons scouting report

January 14, 2011

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Packers on offense: Aaron Rodgers has morphed from the guy who replaced Brett Favre into one of the most complete quarterbacks in the NFL. The 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pounder has a nice blend of athleticism and intelligence. Rodgers has an exceptional arm and underrated quickness and mobility. He is at his best in the pocket, breaking down defenses and exploiting favorable matchups. He’s effective on the run, too, and puts a nice touch on screen passes. It helps to have Greg Jennings as a wide receiver. Jennings (5-11, 198) plays bigger than his size. He uses his physical prowess and ornery disposition to gain separation on smaller defensive backs. Donald Driver explodes in and out of his cuts, making him an ideal slot receiver and an important safety valve for Rodgers. Rookie James Starks rushed for 123 yards last week, showing excellent vision and lateral movement against the Eagles.

Falcons on defense: Unheralded linebacker Curtis Lofton has become a force in Atlanta. Lofton has great recognition skills, a great first step, and is a powerful tackler. Edge rusher John Abraham can still wreak havoc in the backfield. The 11-year veteran hasn’t lost much speed or quickness and still hits with authority. Corner Brent Grimes and safety William Moore have five picks each.

Falcons on offense: Quarterback Matt Ryan has emerged as one of the NFL’s brightest stars. The 6-4, 220-pounder has excellent physical skills and intelligence. He also exudes a quiet confidence and has the respect of everyone in the huddle. Ryan has a great arm and decent mobility. His accuracy doesn’t drop off much when he’s flushed from the pocket, and he throws across his body as good as anyone in the league. Wide receiver Roddy White doesn’t get a lot of press, but he has been one of the most consistent performers in the league over the last six seasons. White has great speed and toughness and an uncanny ability to adjust to poorly thrown balls. Michael Jenkins (6-4, 217) is a big target who shows flashes of brilliance but has bouts of inconsistency. Tony Gonzalez remains a top-notch tight end. He still gets off the line cleanly, finds soft spots in the flat, and catches nearly everything thrown his way. Tailback Michael Turner (5-10, 244) is a battering ram. He uses his thick, powerful body and quick feet to punish defenses.

Packers on defense: Instinctive linebackers A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews set the tone. They read plays quickly and are fast to the ball. Corners Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams have the speed and mirror skills to blanket receivers.

Special teams: Polished Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby will think he died and went to heaven as he gets to kick indoors. Crosby hit 22 of 28 field goal attempts during the season, but wasn’t needed last week in Philadelphia. . . Packers punter Tim Masthay (43.9-yard average) has dropped 25 punts inside the 20-yard line . . . Jordy Nelson and Sam Shields return kicks for Green Bay . . . Falcons kicker Matt Bryant has nailed an impressive 28 of 31 field goal attempts, including a long of 51 yards . . . Atlanta has a special return man in Eric Weems. The 5-9, 194-pound speedster has a 27.5-yard average on 40 kickoff returns (including a 102-yard TD). He also has a 12.8-yard average on 18 punt returns (including a 55-yard TD).

Miscellany: This is the third time the franchises have met in the postseason. The Falcons won a wild-card game eight years ago and the Packers won a wild-card game on the last day of 1995 . . . Green Bay has 26 playoff wins . . . Atlanta is 3-1 in postseason games at home . . . Ryan has 33 wins as a starter, tying Dan Marino for most wins by a QB over his first three seasons since 1970 . . . Rodgers led the NFC with a 101.2 passer rating . . . Falcons committed a league-low 58 penalties; the Packers ranked third-lowest with 78 flags.

JIM McBRIDE

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