This is a tough one, but in my mind it comes down to this: Would you rather face a rookie quarterback at his place or Aaron Rodgers at yours? Me, I’d rather not face Aaron Rodgers anywhere, least of all in the Georgia Dome in January. Been there, done that.
There’s not much to say about the Atlanta Falcons’ emphatic dismissal that I haven’t said elsewhere on myajc.com, so now we turn our attention to the next hurdle. The Packers play the Cowboys in Dallas — in Arlington, actually — tomorrow. If Dallas wins, the NFC championship game is there. If Green Bay wins, it’s here. Me, I think Green Bay will win.
If we’re going by history — admittedly this is a small sample size — the Falcons are better in NFC title tilts on the road than at home. They’re 1-1 elsewhere, losing in Philadelphia in January 2005 but winning, somehow, against the 15-1 Vikings of Cunningham and Moss in overtime on Jan. 17, 1999. (Gary Anderson missed. Morten Andersen didn’t. Still amazing.)
The only NFC championship game staged here saw the Falcons lead the 49ers 17-0 and lose. That’s as bad a memory as this Dome has. It would be nice, kind of, if the doomed building got set out (meaning demolished) on a high, but if your aiming at the Super Bowl, you don’t really care where the launch pad is situated.
I asked Dan Quinn if he was rooting for Green Bay. His answer: “I don’t know yet.” (When would he know? Next Friday?) Then: “For the fans, I kind of (am). It would be nice to come back one last time.”
And it would, in theory. But the only way for the Dome to play host to another game is if Rodgers is on the opposing side, and that’s frightening. The Falcons moved heaven and earth to beat the Packers here in October, and that was Green Bay without Randall Cobb and without a bona fide running threat. (It was, however, Green Bay with Jordy Nelson, who will miss tomorrow’s game.)
As great as Tom Brady is, there’s something terrifying about Rodgers. We all recall what he did here in January 2011 — wild card Packers 48, No. 1 seed Falcons 21 — and he’s the only quarterback who actually expects to complete Hail Marys. (Probably because he has three times in a little over a year.)
Dallas is a very good team, but AT&T Stadium isn’t a terribly intimidating site. Both teams have since changed, but the Falcons blew out the Cowboys in the second half there last September. The wine-and-cheese crowd didn’t seem overly upset. Word is that Jerry World has become more raucous this year, but still: It isn’t Oakland’s Black Hole.
I’d take my chances with Arlington if the alternative is Aaron. (How’s that for alliteration?) The Dome was loud and proud Sunday — “That’s got to be as loud as it’s ever been in here,” Matt Ryan said — but Saturday’s game would be a nice farewell. When you beat the best NFC team of the past five years by 16 points, that’s a drop-the-mic farewell.
From Saturday’s AJC: Don’t fret over these Falcons. They’re too good to flop.