The NFC Championship's Two Most Important Players

Come playoff time, all 53 players on every roster are going to be important and play some role. However, not all players are of equal importance. Some guys are going to do minor things to help a team win, while others are going to play major roles.

After a look at the AFC Championship Game's most important players, here are the two players that can shape how you bet on football the NFC Championship Game that are most vital to their team earning a victory and a spot in Super Bowl LI.

Atlanta Falcons DE/LB Vic Beasley

Playing against Aaron Rodgers and the explosive Packers passing game is a challenge. You have to apply pressure to beat them. That may sound simple, but Rodgers has to feel uneasy in the pocket and when rolling out. Against Dallas, Rodgers was sacked three times, but he didn't face much pressure. Thanks to NFL sack leader Vic Beasley, the Falcons have a chance to put Rodgers under duress.

Ironically, in a match-up earlier in the season, the Falcons' three sacks were coverage sacks as Rodgers struggled against Dan Quinn's effective Cover-3 defense.

That won't happen again in the rematch. Atlanta will need more from Beasley. What separates him from most elite pass rushers is that he poses a threat all over the field. He’s adept at playing well in the ground game, and he can cover some wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. It also helps that he has a relentless motor. Along with leading the NFL in sacks, Beasley was fifth in quarterback hurries. Due to Beasley's multi-faceted skill set, Rodgers and the Packers have to know where No. 44 is.

To Beasley’s benefit, the Packers offensive line isn’t elite, so his chances of being productive will certainly increase. In turn, the Falcons have a better shot of playing in their first Super Bowl since the “Dirty Bird” became a national marvel.

Green Bay Packers RB Ty Montgomery

Steve Apps/State Journal Archives

Since Ty Montgomery seized the running back position, Green Bay’s offense has been close to unstoppable. While he isn’t the typical bell-cow back, his assortment of skills suits the Packers. By Montgomery not being too far removed from playing wide receiver, it gives Green Bay's offense a bit more versatility.

As a former wideout, he’s accustomed to doing his damage in space. Mike McCarthy has implemented the same strategy in the running game. There are a few times you will see McCarthy run the old fashion “HB Iso," but you will mostly see a variety of zone reads and outside zone plays to take advantage of Montgomery's speed and agility. Against Atlanta, those plays will play an intricate role in keeping the Falcons defense at bay.

Although the Packers aren’t a power running team, they've now managed to run the ball efficiently. Against Dallas, they earned more five yards per touch, and Montgomery scored two rushing touchdowns. The total rushing yards will never be impressive, but the efficiency will be.

In addition to the rushing attack, Montgomery changes the game as a wide receiver. To no surprise, he is a match-up nightmare for any linebacker or safety. Whether he’s flanked wide or coming out of the backfield, Montgomery can dissect defenses in many ways.

Like New York and Dallas, Atlanta could be in trouble schematically against Green Bay. The Packers are a pass-heavy team and it regularly rolls out three wide receiver sets. Add a hybrid player like Montgomery in the backfield, and it puts the defense in a bind. The threat of Montgomery forces opposing defenses to entertain the idea of playing with an extra defensive back on the field or come out in a base set with multiple linebackers.

If Montgomery can keep the Falcons defense confused on top of keeping the latest version of “The Greatest Show on Turf” off the field, a trip to Houston is likely for the cheese heads.

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