Behind Enemy Lines: Matchups

We have the four matchups that will determine who wins Sunday's big NFC clash at the Georgia Dome. Leading off: Red-hot Greg Jennings will see plenty of unheralded Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes.


WR Greg Jennings vs. CB Brent Grimes

Jennings has caught 32 passes over his last five games, including seven with three touchdowns last week at Minnesota. While the Falcons spent big bucks on Dunta Robinson in free agency, it's Grimes who has been the playmaker at cornerback with three interceptions. The scrappy and athletic Grimes will have a major battle on his hands. Jennings caught just 14 passes in his first five games of the season but has come on strong over the last five games. He is averaging 16.3 yards per catch over the last five games. Grimes was heavily targeted by Cincinnati's Carson Palmer, Tampa Bay's Josh Freeman and Baltimore's Joe Flacco.

LT Chad Clifton vs. DE John Abraham

Abraham leads the Falcons with eight sacks. Abraham didn't play last week against the Rams, a game-day scratch with a groin injury. He played with the same injury against Baltimore and registered two sacks. Clifton is having a spectacular season and has helped to stabilize the unit with his play. The Packers don't have much of a rushing attack, so it's somewhat remarkable that the pass protection has allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to move into the top 10 in passer rating. He ranks ninth with a 95.7 mark.


CBs Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson vs. Falcons WR Roddy White.

Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy has high praise for White, calling him "a complete receiver." White is the best wideout going in the league, ranking first with 79 catches and second with 1,017 receiving yards to go with seven touchdowns. The Falcons like to position White all over in their pass formations, so the Packers probably won't cover him exclusively with one guy. Williams is playing at a Pro Bowl-worthy level with all of his team-high four interceptions in the last six games and figures to have the one-on-one matchup on the perimeter, passing the coverage off to Woodson when White lines up in the slot. White exploited the Packers for eight catches and 132 yards and a touchdown in the Falcons' win at Green Bay in 2008.

ILBs Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk vs. RB Michael Turner

Turner ranks sixth in the NFL with 864 rushing yards and is the bellcow of a Falcons rushing attack that is No. 7 in the league. A bruiser with breakaway speed, Turner will test a Packers defense that was either feast or famine last week against the Vikings' Adrian Peterson. The sure-tackling Hawk and the productive Bishop have been superb against the run. With Atlanta's offense specializing in controlling the ball and getting into manageable third-down situations, the Packers' 19th-ranked run defense will need to keep Turner under wraps.


… Aaron Rodgers continues playing at a high level. Rodgers, with 112 consecutive passes without an interception, will be throwing against a Falcons defense that is tied with Green Bay for second with 15 interceptions. The matchups favor the Packers but the Falcons have excelled at playing bend-but-don't-break and creating big plays.


… they can't stop the Falcons' running game. Outside of Peterson's 25-yard run last week, the Packers' run defense has stepped up its game after a slow start. The Falcons have a versatile attack, and if they can run the ball, the Packers will have a devil of a time stopping their passing game.


… they win the turnover battle. Turnovers will be the story line, with Atlanta at plus-10 and Green Bay at plus-8. With Ryan boasting an 18-1 career record at home, the Georgia Dome obviously is a tough place to play. If the Falcons win the turnover battle, that advantage will be heightened.


… Roddy White doesn't have a big day against Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson. White is the Falcons' big-play performer while Williams hasn't allowed a touchdown in 10 games. Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt says Williams is playing more physical than ever. That's huge, because White is as physical as they come.


Falcons 20, Packers 17: Flip a coin for this game. Because the Packers keep winning when I pick against them, I'll continue the trend. I'm just not sure that the Packers have proven anything because they have only one truly quality win, the 9-0 triumph over the Jets.

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