New home for Falcons as they welcome formidable Packers
When the Atlanta Falcons host the Green Bay Packers in the NFL on Sunday, it will be both an early indicator of the NFC’s balance of power as well as their third matchup in less than 11 months.
All three of those games have been in Atlanta, though this one will be at a new venue.
The Falcons are making their regular-season debut at $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which replaced the Georgia Dome.
“We’ve seen a lot of them,” Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed said, breaking into a smile. “I’m sure they’re sick of coming down here. But we like it.”
Last season, the teams first met in Week 8, when Atlanta’s Matt Ryan tossed an 11-yard scoring pass to Mohamed Sanu with 31 seconds remaining, pulling out a 33-32 victory. Both teams went on to reach the NFC Championship game. That one was a blowout for Atlanta, which raced out to 24-0 halftime lead and cruised to a 44-21 triumph.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he’s not thinking about last season.
“You can’t rewrite history,” he said. “It’s just two 1-0 teams who both think we can be there at the end of the season. These are the type of games, like last week, that you win these games and you feel better in December and January when you’re coming down to filling out that 12-team (playoffs) bracket.”
They got to 1-0 in dissimilar ways.
Green Bay completely shut down Seattle — yet another highly touted NFC contender — at Lambeau Field. Atlanta struggled with lowly Chicago before a goal-line stand, helped by a dropped pass that should have been a touchdown, allowed it to survive.
The Falcons will play with their roof open, it appears, for their first open-air home game since 1991.
After manhandling the New York Giants, Dallas can really prove it is an NFC power again by crossing over, heading to the Rockies, and beating the Denver Broncos. The Cowboys had the ball for so long against New York that the Giants’ formidable defense withered.
Denver’s defense is just as good, so it’s a matchup of Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott, Jason Witten and that terrific offensive line against Von Miller, Aqib Talib & Co.
Dallas last beat Denver in 1995, a Super Bowl season for the Cowboys.
The Broncos might have found yet another dangerous receiver in Bennie Fowler III, who had two touchdown receptions as they held on to edge the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday. But the run game must be sharp in this one.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs meet after impressive road wins.
Eagles coach Doug Pederson is a disciple of Chiefs head man Andy Reid. Their forte is offense, and Kansas City was opportunistic and, at times, dominant in New England with the ball.
Running back Kareem Hunt set a rookie debut record with 246 yards from scrimmage, while wide receiver Tyreek Hill has a 60-plus yard touchdown in five consecutive games.
Philly’s Carson Wentz, 4-0 in September matches, must watch for Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston, who had 4 1/2 sacks the last time the clubs met.
The Minnesota Vikings, particularly second-round running back Dalvin Cook (127 yards rushing) were impressive on Monday against New Orleans, but a short turnaround for a trip to Pittsburgh is never enviable. Their last win in Pittsburgh was in 1995.
Pittsburgh seemed out of synch last weekend against Cleveland. Maybe star running back Le’Veon Bell will be more impactful after not reporting until Sept. 1; he had 32 yards on the ground last week, tying a career low.
Of note is how the Steelers appear to be building a defense to complement their all-world offense led by Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger.
Week 2 began with the Houston Texans beating the Cincinnati Bengals 13-9 on Thursday.
Deshaun Watson ran 49 yards for a touchdown in his first NFL start and led Houston’s depleted offense to a late clinching field goal.
The Bengals have failed to score a touchdown in the first two games of a season for the first time in their 50 seasons.