Each week, Falcons vice president of football communications Reggie Roberts sits down with an expert and talks about the Falcons as well as what's going on in the rest of the league. This week's expert is Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel NFL writer Bob McGinn.
Reggie Roberts: You've been a longtime scribe in the NFL. Give us your overall thoughts on how the Packers are playing and what kind of game are you expecting on Sunday in the Georgia Dome?
Bob McGinn: "The Packers have overcome their worst siege of injuries since 2002 and are playing their finest football of the season. They're coming off drubbings of Dallas and Minnesota, possibly the NFL's two most disappointing teams this season. One day after losing to the Packers, the Cowboys and Vikings fired their coaches. But Atlanta isn't some sad-sack operation, like Dallas and Minnesota. The Falcons seem very well-coached, very well-managed and highly unified. It would be a surprise if this game was decided before the final few minutes."
RR: Packers LB Clay Matthews leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks. Give us your take on how he, CB Charles Woodson, and the entire Packers defense have seemingly gotten better as the season has progressed under defensive coordinator Dom Capers?
BM: "Green Bay is missing three starters on defense because of season-ending injuries: SILB Nick Barnett, ROLB Brad Jones, and SS Morgan Burnett. Rookie DE Mike Neal, a prominent piece as their fourth D-lineman and fixture in the nickel pass rush, also is out for the year. Dom Capers has had a month to adjust, and adjust he has. The Packers stop the run because they have the NFL's heaviest front three and both Matthews and ROLB Frank Zombo set the edge well. They have stopped the pass because Matthews is an elite rusher, Cullen Jenkins is an effective interior rusher, CB Tramon Williams has come out of almost nowhere to play at a Pro Bowl level, Charles Woodson keeps making plays, and nickel back Sam Shields has been at least adequate."
RR: Let's talk about the Falcons' offense, which enters Sunday's game averaging 371.4 yards per game and 25.6-points per game. What are your thoughts on Matt Ryan and the rest of the Atlanta offense?
BM: "Matt Ryan exudes maturity. In two-and-a-half seasons, he has gained complete command of a high-volume package. He will follow his progression from sideline to sideline, which is so unlike most young quarterbacks. He has an average-plus arm. And he is a threat to run. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are elite players at their positions, and the Falcons have a top running back in Michael Turner. Scouts say the Falcons don't have a great talent in the offensive line, but the unit functions well because it's well-coached by Paul Boudreau and has no weak link."
RR: Let's jump over to the AFC. The New York Jets and the New England Patriots are seemingly on a Dec. 6 collision course in the new Meadowlands for outright supremacy in the AFC East. Which team has the edge?
BM: "New England has the edge in the AFC East and possibly the entire AFC. Mark Sanchez is an improved player, but he's not in the class of Tom Brady. On Oct. 31, the Packers went to the Meadowlands and shut out the Jets, 9-0. Sanchez was extremely inaccurate and really hurt his team. Bill Belichick will find ways to rattle Sanchez on Dec. 6."
RR: And finally, give us your take on the log-jam that is the NFC. Which six teams do you think come out of the NFC this season as playoff teams please give us your picks for division winners in the NFC East, NFC West, NFC North, and NFC South?
BM: "My guess for division winners in the NFC will be Philadelphia in the East, Green Bay in the North, Atlanta in the South and Seattle in the West. The wild cards look like New Orleans and the NY Giants."