*Each week, AtlantaFalcons.com contributing writer Daniel Cox examines the NFL experts and their Falcons picks and compiles it all to see who believes the most in the Atlanta Falcons. After a long season of back-and-forth picks, few things have been settled. There are those pundits on the list that have refused to stay consistent with Falcons picks and others who have been pretty committed to the Atlanta cause. There are a few who have loved the Falcons all season almost as much as the fans themselves. *
A rookie is the most important player in the Divisional playoffs.
Green Bay rookie running back James Starks is one of the prime reasons 10 of the 16 pundits picked the Packers to beat the Falcons this week.
Ten of 16 went against the No. 1 seed at home (where they're 7-1 this season). Ten. Of. 16.
As Peter Schrager of Fox said, "I'm riding the hot hand of Rodgers, the relentless 3-4 defense, and America's newest star — Mr. James Starks."
There's been much talk of disrespect for the Falcons this season and while it ultimately doesn't matter to the team and what they do on the field, this week takes the cake. It's nothing against the Packers, they're a talented team and much better than a traditional No. 6 seed in any other year.
All this week's picks really tell you is this game is about as down-the-middle as they come. It's the only thing that should be expected in this year's NFL, a close game with a bunch of really talented guys on the field.
In that scenario every one wins.
However, since we've tracked the picks all season ... we've got to begin to discuss the pundit who loves the Falcons the most. The pundit who is a borderline Falcons fan.
One may be a closet Falcons fans, the other is pretty open about it.
Merril Hoge and Jeff Schultz we salute you!
"If (Michael) Turner does his thing, the Falcons will have a shot to win. If he doesn't, they're toast. Atlanta beat the Ravens when Turner ran for just 39 yards, but lost every other time when Turner was held to 50 yards or less (Pittsburgh: 42, Philadelphia: 45, New Orleans: 48). Matt Ryan's going to be under duress the entire evening. If Turner can off-set some of that pressure and keep No. 12 off the field, Atlanta should control the game."- Peter Schrager, FoxSports.com's Divisional Playoffs picks * "This will be a close game throughout, and Atlanta has a huge edge in conditioning, playing at home with 13 days' rest against a team on the road for the second straight week on a short week. I just like the difference Starks can make in the balance between two close teams." -Peter King, SI.com's Divisional Playoffs Weekend Pickof * "(The Packers) lost 20-17 in the Georgia Dome earlier this season on Matt Bryant's last-second field goal, but that was before James Starks showed up (although showing up for one game doesn't mean Starks will show up for the rest of his career.) Starks should be a factor this week, because he gives the Packers a threat on the ground that can help keep John Abraham off Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay is peaking." -Dave Goldberg, Fanhouse's NFL Picks, Divisional Round * "The first Packers-Falcons game was an entertaining matchup marked by long drives and two failures by the Packers inside the 10-yard line. Green Bay had no running game then, but now James Starks could be the key to the game. Starks should find running room because Atlanta's secondary – especially Dunta Robinson — can be vulnerable without help in coverage." - Gregg Rosenthal, ProFootballTalk.com's Divisionall Round Picks