Sunday afternoon, two similarly talented teams will face off for the rights to advance to Super Bowl LI; however, these teams represent franchises that couldn’t be more different. In terms of 2016, the Packers and Falcons are peers in terms of talent, but one has decades of almost unpeered success behind it, while the other has mostly eons of mediocrity. For the Packers, a victory would be but yet another cherry on top of a football sundae already filled with four Super Bowl titles and nine previous league crowns. For the Falcons, a win in the NFC Championship game would put the Atlanta franchise firmly in the limelight for one of the few times in its history. And, same as many a Sunday before it, this weekend’s clash will boil down to the man behind the center.
When Green Bay, in the second year of a hangover from its dreadful playoff collapse against Seattle, had slumped to a 4-6 start this year, the stat “experts” pegged their odds at making the playoffs at 9%. But QB Aaron Rodgers, by now AKA the “magic man”, promised that his team would win out. Little did those experts know, but the team’s odds actually increased to 100% that day. In fact three times since that day the team was in a tough spot, only for Rodgers to bail his team out with an incredible play. Against the lowly Bears, a late defensive collapse threatened to foil the team’s playoffs hopes. A-Rod came through with a bomb, and then Mason Crosby came in for the kick. Game over. Against the proud Giants Defense in the Wild Card round, the team played a lethargic first half and had two seconds to go 40 yards, against a perfectly designed prevent defense. One play later the team was in the end zone. For all intents and purposes, game over. And last week against Dallas, Green Bay was staring at the unappetizing prospect of another overtime nail-biter. And yet again, Rodgers and Crosby came through. God forbid for the Falcons the Pack gets the ball last on Sunday because only heaven knows what trick Rodgers would have up his sleeve to win try and win the NFC Championship Game.
The Falcons franchise has had a few imaginings of success before, only for these imaginings to be quickly forgotten. In 1998 the team rode into the Big Game with a classic upset of the Vikings, only to be shown the door by John Elway and the Broncos. Michael Vick led the team to a few strong years, only for his reign to end in a criminal’s disgrace. Matt Ryan knocked on the Super Bowl door in 2012, only for the quickly forgotten 9ers to slam the door shut. Well finally the team may actually amount to something, or so it would seem. Ryan has probable MVP aspirations, and the team easily dispatched the once-mighty Hawks in the divisional round. But is the team ready to appear on football’s grandest stage? Can they win the NFC Championship Game?
Green Bay has made the playoffs eight years in a row, all with Rodgers at the helm. Ryan has won all of two playoff games, both at home against fair Seattle teams. While the Georgia Dome may be home to some success-starved Falcon fans, it will likely be home to just as many Green Bay fans, who travel very well. And in fact, travel well they did back in 2010 when Rodgers and the Pack blew out the #1 seeded Falcons in route to Rodger’s first title. This matchup figures to be in the same style as the Pack’s division round shootout that garnered record ratings surpassing even that of Indians-Cubs game seven. The Inscriber’s crystal ball is a bit murky for this one, judging by the relative even strengths of the two teams. But all the same, it seems that Rodger’s proud boast holds true for one more week. The Pack has all the makings of the team of destiny, a destiny to be fulfilled on Super Bowl Sunday.