The last visit to Atlanta is one the Green Bay Packers won’t soon forget -- a beating at the hands of the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game in January. With the stakes much lower, the Packers get a chance to avenge that loss to Atlanta on Sunday night in what will mark the first regular-season game at the Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Green Bay entered last season’s conference title game on an eight-game winning streak but was never in it against Atlanta, falling behind by 24 points at halftime in a 44-21 blowout. “If you’re thinking about last year and talking about last year, you’re just wasting time and energy,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “To get to the point where you’re playing in January and the opportunity to play in the Super Bowl, you’ve got to focus on what’s going on today. That’s really what our guys are focused on.” The Falcons will be looking to beat Green Bay for the third time in 11 months -- they squeezed out a 33-32 victory at home last October on a last-minute touchdown pass by Matt Ryan. The league’s highest-scoring team in 2016 with an average of 33.8 points, Atlanta needed a late defensive stand to escape with a 23-17 victory at Chicago in Week 1.
TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Falcons -3. O/U: 54
ABOUT THE PACKERS (1-0): Aaron Rodgers, who threw for 311 yards with one touchdown and one interception in last week’s 17-9 victory over Seattle, has a passer rating of 117.0 in seven matchups against Atlanta while throwing for 29 scoring passes against two picks. Running back Ty Montgomery had 93 total yards and a touchdown while wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson combined for 16 receptions and a score last week. Green Bay could be in trouble along the offensive line Sunday with left tackle David Bakhtiari battling a hamstring issue and right tackle Bryan Bulaga dealing with illness and a sprained ankle. The Packers’ defense limited the Seahawks to 225 total yards and 12 first downs.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (1-0): Ryan connected on an 88-yard scoring strike to tight end Austin Hooper in the fourth quarter and finished with 321 yards passing in the season opener. The league’s reigning MVP has put up huge numbers over the past three matchups against the Packers, passing for 1,055 yards with 11 touchdowns against one interception. Wideout Julio Jones, who had four catches for 66 yards last week, torched Green Bay in the NFC title game with nine catches for 180 yards and two scores, and had an 11-catch, 259-yard monster performance against the Packers in 2014. The backfield tandem of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for only 53 yards rushing on 20 carries in Week 1.
1. Rodgers needs two TD passes to become the 11th player in history to reach 300 for his career.
2. Falcons LB Vic Beasley had a sack last week, giving him a league-best 16.5 since the start of the 2016 season.
3. Including the playoff matchup, the teams have combined for at least 65 points in each of the past three meetings.
PREDICTION: Packers 27, Falcons 26