Falcons, Packers expected to light up scoreboard

Over/under set at 60.5 for NFC championship

The Associated Press

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — The high-scoring offenses of the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers appear poised to provide a memorable send-off for the Georgia Dome.

Factor in the teams’ leaky defenses, and Sunday’s NFC championship game could surge past the unusually high over/under of 60 1/2 points set by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

The Falcons led the NFL in scoring. Even so, they know it won’t be easy to keep up with the scoring pace set by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

“It’s obvious they’ve got a stud at quarterback,” Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews said Tuesday. “We’ve played a lot of great teams with great players at quarterback. … Whatever it takes, we just have to put up as many points as we need to.”

Matthews said the weekly message from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is, “I don’t know if we’re going to have to win 6-3 or 40-37.”

Of those alternatives, 40-37 appears to be the more likely target, in part because the Atlanta and Green Bay defenses don’t dominate the statistics like their offensive counterparts.

The game will be the Falcons’ last at the Georgia Dome — they will move into the $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium next season.

The Falcons and Packers finished the regular season ranked 28th and 31st, respectively, in pass defense. The Falcons allowed 25.4 points per game to rank 27th, only six spots below the Packers (24.2).

The Falcons, led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, beat the Packers 33-32 in Atlanta on Oct. 30. Atlanta was tops in the NFL with 33.8 points per game.

Green Bay linebacker Nick Perry said the goal will be to prevent big plays.

“They are very explosive,” Perry said. “When we look at the film, we have to make sure we don’t give up those explosive plays. Everything lives off that. They are good at what they do. We are going to look at the film and go over it and make sure we prevent as much as we can of those guys giving up explosive plays.”

Despite the unimpressive season totals, Atlanta allowed fewer than 20 points in four of its last six regular-season games.

But none of those games were against Rodgers.

Asked who compares with Rodgers, Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell had a quick answer.

“Nobody. It’s just that simple,” Campbell said. “The things that he can do, it’s just amazing to see. There’s no one I can compare him to.”

Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford said expectations for a high-scoring game gives the defense reason “to have a chip on our shoulders.”

Added Alford: “We’re all going to have something to prove. I love it.”