Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who is Tonight's game more important for?

Tonight, in Atlanta (8:00 PM EST, FOX), the next generation of Elite Quarterbacks (sans Joe Flacco) square off in the Georgia Dome. Both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan (aka "Matty Ice," possibly the sickest nickname given to any player, ever) have already enjoyed exorbitant success in their NFL careers. While Ryan is two years younger (25, Rodgers is 27), they have both been starters for their respective clubs for the last three seasons (recall, Rodgers backed up the immortal Brett Favre for the first 3 seasons of his career). Statistically, Rodgers has a clear edge. Here is how their numbers stack up:
Rodgers: 64.4 Completion %, 12,723 Yds, 87 TD, 32 INT, 98.8 rating
Ryan: 60.8 Completion %, 10,061 Yds, 66 TD, 34 INT, 86.9 rating
However, it is worth noting that Ryan is 2-0 in his young career vs. Rodgers, and Rodgers has 16 fumbles in his career as a starter. Ironically, both of these players lost their playoff debut to the Arizona Cardinals. Rodgers last year, on the road, in that absurd 51-45 overtime game in which it was his fumble that was returned for the winning score, and Ryan the year prior to that, in the Georgia Dome, as the upstart Cardinals went on to lose to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.

Overall, both of these young quarterbacks have shown incredible poise and talent. Ryan has a record of 33-13 as a starter, and Rodgers is not far behind with a record of 27-20. Toss out Rodgers' first season as a starter -- in wish he completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 4038 yards, 28 TDs and 93.8 QB rating -- and he is 21-10 as a starter over the last two years. Together, in their young careers, the two have played just three playoffs games, with the only win belonging to Rodgers last week in Philadelphia. Despite this limited sample size, we still hear the questions of "Can they finally win in the playoffs?" When I hear this I think "That has got to be a joke, right?" Ryan lost his playoff debut in his rookie season to a team with a Super Bowl winning quarterback (Kurt Warner) that went on to win the NFC. Rodgers lost his playoff debut on the road, in overtime, to the same Super Bowl winning QB. It's not as if we're discussing John Elway who was 0-3 in Super Bowls 15 years into his career. Chances are, either Ryan or Rodgers will never win a Super Bowl, most quarterbacks never do. But only three years into their career, this talk about not producing when it counts is absolutely absurd.

Now that I have given my 2 cents on that front, I will say this. This game tonight means more for Matt Ryan than it does Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers "finally" got his big playoff win, on the road none-the-less, in Philadelphia. If Ryan loses tonight, he will drop to *gasp* 0-2 in his playoff career. While I may poke fun at analysts who flip their shit over such a stat, it is worth noting that it will be 0-2 at home in the playoffs, whereas he is 20-2 at home in the regular season in his tenure in Atlanta. While I do not believe Falcons fans have anything to worry about, they still have an enormously talented, young roster that is poised for much success over the next several seasons. However, if Matty Ice wants to avoid hearing "Can he win when it counts" all summer long, he needs to win tonight. For Rodgers, the pressure is off. He got his playoff win, courtesy of Mike Vick going all Jay Cutler last Sunday.

Now, what you've all been waiting for, it's time for T-Bred Predictions:
Ravens over Steelers in Heinz Field -- The Ravens are getting hot at the right time. Their offense was scary good last week in Kansas City, and the defense is starting to look like the 2000 Super Bowl team creating turnovers like it's their job. Oh wait, it is their job. And they're doing it.

Packers over Falcons in the Georgia Dome -- The Falcons squeaked out a 20-17 win in week 12, but there were a few questionable calls including some "technical difficulties" that interfered with Mike McCarthy's ability to challenge a key play. Also, the Packers reestablished their running game last week in Philadelphia, something they have struggled with since Ryan Grant went on season-ending IR.
Stay tuned tomorrow morning for T-Bred Predictions on Bears at Seahawks and Jets at Patriots.

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