Brett Favre is long gone now after 20 years, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees can't play forever and come Saturday night at the Georiga Dome, the next generation of elite NFL quarterbacks may be on dispaly. The Packers meet the Falcons for the right to go to the NFC Championshp game and they are each led by quarterbacks on the cusp of becomming the game's elites. In just his third year, Altanta's Matt Ryan has reached the Pro Bowl. He led the Falcons to the playoffs as a rookie out of Boston College in 2008, a first round loss to another old master Kurt Warner. This year, he's thrown for over 3700 yards, 28 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. That may be his greatest asset, avoiding the big mistake. He certainly has the stature and the smarts for the game and he rarely gets himself in trouble by forcing throws or taking unneccessary risks. The Atlanta offense has helped him develop quickly. Coordinator Mike Mularkey has a bruising running back in Michael Turner, a future Hall of Fame security blanket on medium routes in tight end Tony Gonzalez and a very productive downfield threat in Roddy White, the league leader in receptions with the second most receiving yards this season. Atlanta gave the ball away only 19 times in 16 games, they committed the fewest penalties and Ryan has developed into a classic young field general.
As for Rodgers, he was a whack on the noggin away from becomming the first quarterback in league history to top 4000 yards in each of his first three seasons as a starter. Even missing a game and a half, he wound up as the league's third rated passer, 78 yards shy of 4000 with 28 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. In just his second career playoff game, Rodgers has eclipsed a couple of NFL post-season records, throwing 7 touchdowns in his first two games and being the first to have a passer rating above 120.0 in his first two career starts. This year, Rodgers also went past the 1500 attempts minumum to become the league's highest rated passer, ever! He moved slightly past Phillip Rivers to reach number 1 on the all-time list, and he's just 27 years old. I'm not much of a betting man, but I'd dare to wager that Saturday night's showdown in the dome could be the first in a long line of playoff matchups between quarterbacks ready to assume the mantle of the best in the NFC, if not the NFL.
The Packers got an early start on the practice week Tuesday, working out for just over 90 minutes. Mike McCarthy was able to install the base plays and third down package for the Falcons game as the team faces a quick turnaround from Sunday's Wild Card victory in Philadelphia to Saturday night's Divisional round game in Atlanta. The first injury report of the week is due out later today. Linebacker Frank Zombo will give it a go at practice along with Korey Hall and Atari Bigby who missed the Eagles game.