1. Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Ryan
The final game played at the Georgia Dome will feature two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. Ryan put his name in the conversation for the MVP award after amassing a league-best 117.1 passer rating behind a 69.9 completion percentage, 4,944 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. His 9.3 passing yards per attempt was more than a yard greater than the next eligible quarterback (New England’s Tom Brady at 8.2). Rodgers, who led the NFL with 40 passing touchdowns, has played out of this world during the Packers’ eight-game winning streak. While his interception-less streak ended in Dallas at 318 consecutive passes without a pick, Rodgers threw for at least 300 yards for the fourth straight game. He has a 117.9 passer rating during Green Bay’s winning streak and completed 68.9 percent of his passes for 2,384 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and one interception. Rodgers and Green Bay’s offensive line will again have to be cognizant of Falcons’ pass-rusher Vic Beasley, who led the NFL with 15½ sacks in the regular season.
2. Ty Montgomery vs. Deion Jones
The Packers’ backfield looks significantly different than it did against Atlanta in Week 8. Montgomery, who sat out of the first meeting between the two teams due to an illness, has been on a tear since the Packers officially changed his position to running back last month. He’s averaging nearly 15 touches and 82.6 total yards per game over the last five weeks and has provided matchup issues for opposing defenses with his ability to motion out as a receiver. Jones, a hybrid rookie linebacker, burst onto the scene to lead the Falcons with 108 tackles (75 solo), three interceptions and a forced fumble. He’s quick enough at 6-1, 222 to trail running backs and tight ends in coverage, but also can stand up to contact. Atlanta could look towards the rookie second-round pick to defend the Packers’ versatile playmaker.
3. Jared Cook vs. Keanu Neal
Like Montgomery, Cook missed the first matchup with the Falcons due to an ankle injury. The eighth-year veteran has come into his own in the Packers’ offense since returning two months ago. The 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end has developed a connection with Rodgers, giving defenses another weapon to worry about. His six catches for 103 yards and a touchdown went a long way in the offense being able to survive the absence of Jordy Nelson in Green Bay’s 34-31 win over Dallas. The Packers may need more of that production with Nelson (ribs), Davante Adams (ankle) and Geronimo Allison (hamstring) all missing practice time this week due to their respective ailments. Neal, Atlanta’s talented first-round pick, drew a lot of praise from Rodgers this week for his contributions to the Falcons’ defense. The 6-foot, 211-pound safety often plays the in-the-box role that Morgan Burnett does in Green Bay’s defense and could be one of several defenders to see snaps against Cook. He finished the regular season second on the Falcons behind Jones with 106 tackles (72 solo) and five forced fumbles.
4. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix vs. Julio Jones
LaDarius Gunter likely will get the call opposite Jones, but expect the Pro Bowl safety to provide plenty of over-the-top support. That arrangement nearly picked off Ryan on two separate occasions during the 33-32 loss in Atlanta in October. Clinton-Dix’s role in secondary communication could grow exponentially depending on the availability of Burnett, who missed practice time this week with a quad injury he sustained against the Cowboys. Gunter and Clinton-Dix both broke out for the secondary this season, taking on larger roles in a defense that’s been without Pro Bowl cornerback Sam Shields since Week 1. Jones finished with 83 catches for 1,409 yards and six touchdowns despite dealing with lower-body injuries for most of the year. Jones didn’t practice on Wednesday due to a toe injury but said he will play Sunday.
5. Clay Matthews vs. Jake Matthews
The Matthews cousins will do battle once more. The two faced off during Jake’s rookie season in 2014 and were supposed to meet again in Week 8, but Clay wound up sitting out with a hamstring injury. He has made steady progress with his injured shoulder, enabling him to record two sacks, three pass breakups and two forced fumbles over the last four games. Matthews, Julius Peppers and Nick Perry combined for 23½ of the defense’s 40 sacks during the regular season. Jake anchors the blind side of the NFL’s only offensive line to start all 16 regular-season games together. Ryan was sacked 37 times this past season, which was tied with Detroit for the 11th-most sacks allowed.