Packers Full Of Confidence

Their plan of attack, however, is shrouded in mystery. Will the Packers go with their new-found running attack or will they use what worked so well in the first matchup? Plus, the final injury reports were released on Friday.

The confidence coursing through 1265 Lombardi Ave. is so thick and irrefutable that even Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy isn't bashful to speak with a hint of braggadocio.

"We are fully preparing and expect to win the football game," McCarthy said.

Just how the Packers will go about backing up McCarthy's air of conviction is best left unsaid.

Engaging the Atlanta Falcons in a guessing game for the NFC divisional playoff Saturday night at the Georgia Dome goes with the territory with so much on the line.

"I think you need to just realize that it's the playoffs and each possession has to have more importance and significance," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. "There's an urgency level that picks up with all of the guys. We know what we're playing for."

Fresh off disposing of the third-seeded Philadelphia Eagles 21-16 in the wild-card round Sunday, the upstart Packers as the No. 6 seed will return to the NFC championship for the second time in four years if they turn the tables on the top-seeded Falcons.

Seven weeks earlier, on Nov. 28, Atlanta squeaked by visiting Green Bay 20-17 on a field goal by Matt Bryant in the final seconds of what turned out to be a late-season preview for a juicy postseason matchup.

The Packers left the Georgia Dome that afternoon feeling they were the better team. If not for an inopportune fumble by Rodgers on a goal-line sneak in the first half, the victory would have been Green Bay's thanks to an otherwise foolproof game plan on offense.

McCarthy in so many formations declared that he would be attacking the Falcons at their weakest point. "Spread" was the operative word. Out of the 59 snaps he took, Rodgers was in shotgun 42 times, and of those, the Packers went with an empty backfield 18 times.

"I think it was very productive. The statistics speak for themselves," McCarthy said in retrospect. "The wins and losses were definitely in our favor."

Save for his costly turnover, the only one of the game for both teams, Rodgers had one of his best performances of another superb season. He went 26-of-35 for 344 yards with a touchdown.

What's more, Rodgers accounted for nearly all of Green Bay's 418 total yards. He pulled the football down 12 times and gained 51 yards, scoring a touchdown on another 1-yard sneak.

"Last time, I was the (team's) leading rusher," Rodgers said this week. "Hopefully, that's not the case again."

To that end, the Packers on offense probably won't be as predictable Saturday as they had to be in the first encounter with the Falcons when the absence of a bona fide rusher forced McCarthy's hand to pick on a sluggish secondary.

Green Bay, which has been without featured back Ryan Grant since he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1, finally might have the missing piece to round out a unit that would be tempting fate in trying to get to the Super Bowl on the pass alone. Unheralded James Starks buoyed the aspirations by rushing for 123 yards — a team rookie record in the playoffs — in the win over the Eagles.

Rodgers rightly called the production, which was just the second 100-yard game by a Packers back this season, "a little bit of an anomaly."

"(But) you've got to give credit to James and the way he prepared last week," Rodgers said. "He was the hot guy, and he got the ball. Every week, you never know who's going to get the majority of the carries. I'm just hopeful it's not going to be me this week."

Such is the guessing game that the Packers are able to play this week as McCarthy cooks up a game plan that will allow the offense to spend more time on the Georgia Dome turf after the Falcons worked their ball-control attack to a T seven weeks ago.

"When we are (at) 70-plus plays, we are dangerous as an offense because of our ability to sustain long drives but also make the big play," McCarthy said. "We have the ability to do both, and that's what you want as an offense because there is not just one certain way we need to play to win a game."

Packers injury report

Out: LB Frank Zombo. Questionable: S Atari Bigby (groin); FB Korey Hall (knee); C/G Jason Spitz (calf). Probable: LB Diyral Briggs (ankle); T Bryan Bulaga (shoulder); T Chad Clifton (knees); WR Donald Driver (full); DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); LB Clay Matthews (shin); DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); CB Charles Woodson (toe).

Falcons injury report

Doubtful: CB Brian Williams (knee). Questionable: DE John Abraham (groin); DT Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder); S Thomas DeCoud (ankle); LB Curtis Lofton (knee); C Todd McClure (ankle); WR Roddy White (knee).

Questionable means there's a 50 percent chance the player will not play but nobody believes the six players listed as questionable — all key starters — will not be in the lineup.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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