GREEN BAY, Wis. — They'll be trying like mad to knock each other's teams out of the playoffs Saturday. As two of the league's top young passers, they're bound to be compared for the rest of their careers.
That won't stop the Packers' Aaron Rodgers and the Falcons' Matt Ryan from being buddies off the field.
Rodgers, 27, and Ryan, 25, got to know each other while attending offseason charity events over the past few years, and Rodgers says they've become good friends.
"We were actually supposed to go on vacation last year, but it didn't work out," Rodgers said. "He's a good guy."
Now Rodgers hopes to send his friend on vacation early this year by knocking him out of the playoffs.
With Ryan and Rodgers under center, Saturday's NFC division-round game will be a showcase for them with a trip to the conference championship game on the line.
Rodgers earned his first career playoff victory Sunday, throwing three touchdown passes in the Packers' 21-16 wild-card win over the Eagles.
Ryan made his first playoff start as a rookie two years ago, throwing for 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Falcons lost to the Cardinals.
Saturday, he gets another shot at his first career playoff win, but he says he isn't feeling additional pressure as the quarterback for the No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC.
"At this time of the year, it's a completely new season," he said, "and it doesn't matter if you're the one seed (or) the six seed. Every football team's good, and it's going to be a battle."
Rodgers can keep the chains moving with a sharp short pass or a scramble, then go deep for a big play. He rarely throws interceptions, especially in the red zone. But Ryan, not Rodgers, was chosen for the Pro Bowl.
"I have a lot of respect for the way he plays," Rodgers said. "I think he delivers the ball on time; he gets the ball out of his hands, doesn't take a lot of sacks. He obviously played at a Pro Bowl level this season, and he's tough to beat at home."
Ryan threw for 3,705 yards with 28 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season. He is 20-2 as a starter at home.
Ryan got the best of Rodgers in the Falcons' 20-17 victory over the Packers in the regular season, completing 24 of 28 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown and putting the Falcons in position to kick the winning field goal with 9 seconds left.
Michael Turner rushed for 110 yards in that game, and Ryan hopes to lean on the Falcons' running game again Saturday.
"I expect them to maybe do a couple things differently against our run scheme, and we'll figure out what that is and try to adjust to that pretty quick," Ryan said. "It doesn't change for us. We like to be pretty balanced. We like to run the football effectively and throw the football effectively and figure out through the course of the game whatever we need to do to win."
Rodgers wasn't overshadowed in the loss to the Falcons, throwing for 344 yards and leading a late fourth-quarter drive to tie the score with a touchdown pass on fourth and goal with just less than a minute left. In an indictment of Green Bay's shaky running game, Rodgers also was the Packers' leading rusher that day.
Rodgers isn't making a big deal about having another chance to outduel his buddy on a big stage.
Rodgers just wants to get the Packers one step from the Super Bowl.
"I honestly don't really think about that too much. I really don't," Rodgers said. "I look at it as Green Bay against Atlanta, as cliche as that is. If you know my personality, I never really get into the whole, 'mano y mano, quarterback-on-quarterback or quarterback-on-big name defender (hype).'
"I just realize it's our 11 versus their 11."