Falcons to unveil new home in prime-time clash with Packers

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers will visit Atlanta on Sunday in a prime-time matchup featuring two 1-0 teams. (The Associated Press)

The last time they faced off in Atlanta, the Falcons routed the Packers for the NFC title. When they meet Sunday night, the site will be different, with the Falcons playing their first regular-season game in Mercedes Benz Stadium.


Considering how poorly Green Bay played last January at the Georgia Dome, it probably welcomes the change of venue.

“It’s past,” Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers insists. “You can’t rewrite history. 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 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.

Now, the Falcons, who followed that NFC championship win with a Super collapse against New England, open their new digs officially. The roof will even be open for the first time during a game, it appears. So the Falcons would play their first open-air home game since 1991, their final season at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium.

Dallas (1-0) at Denver (1-0)

After manhandling the Giants, Dallas can really prove it is an NFC power again by crossing over, heading to the Rockies and beating the Broncos. The Cowboys had the ball for so long against New York that the Giants’ formidable defense withered. Denver’s D 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.

New England (0-1) at New Orleans (0-1)

Yes, it really did happen in the 2017 kickoff game: New England got hammered in the fourth quarter at home by Kansas City.

Usually, the Patriots respond after a loss, especially one in which Tom Brady struggled. Since 2003, the Patriots are 42-6 in the regular season after a loss.

New Orleans had far too many deficiencies at Minnesota, and its loose coverage of receivers could be its demise against Brady. But Drew Brees can make up for some issues.

Minnesota (1-0) at Pittsburgh (1-0)

The Vikings, particularly second-round running back Dalvin Cook (127 yards rushing), were impressive on Monday night against New Orleans, but a short turnaround for a trip to the Steel City is never enviable. Their last win in Pittsburgh came on Sept. 24, 1995.

Of note is how the Steelers appear to be building a defense to complement their all-world offense led by Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Ben Roethlisberger.

Chicago (0-1) at Tampa Bay (0-0)

It’s impossible to know what the Bucs have after being forced by Hurricane Irma to move their bye up to opening week. They could be dynamic on offense and improved on defense, which would put them in the mix.

Former Bucs QB Mike Glennon played well in his first outing for Detroit and was a dropped pass away from an upset of the Falcons.

Miami (0-0) at Los Angeles Chargers (0-1)

If the Dolphins can get the run game on track with Jay Ajayi, they could spoil the Chargers’ official debut in L.A. Well, their return there after playing all of one season as the L.A. Chargers in 1960, the debut year of the AFL.

Blanked last week when the comeback came up short at Denver, Antonio Gates gets chance to set an NFL record for TD catches by a tight end. He needs one to break a tie with Tony Gonzalez.

Detroit (1-0) at New York Giants (0-1), Monday night

If the Giants don’t have standout receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) again, and their offensive line is as abysmal as it was against Dallas, this might not be much of a prime-time showcase.

If Matthew Stafford keeps the Lions close into the fourth quarter, watch out. The league’s highest-paid player has a knack for comebacks, including last week against Arizona.

Buffalo (1-0) at Carolina (1-0)

Although they haven’t made the playoffs since the last century, the Bills lead this series 5-1. Their running game with LeSean McCoy was dynamic in the opener, but it was against the Jets. This should be a saltier test.

Cam Newton appeared off in the win at San Francisco, but he still threw for a pair of scores. His backfield of Jonathan Stewart and first-rounder Christian McCaffrey could provide a spark, and the defense had four sacks of the 49ers.

Tennessee (0-1) at Jacksonville (1-0)

OK, hold your breath for this one: The Jaguars lead the AFC South. Indeed, they smashed their way to first place by annihilating Houston (10 sacks).

Now they are home, where damage from Hurricane Irma was significant and they wound up spending two extra nights in Texas. A win over the Titans certainly would legitimize their start.

New York Jets (0-1) at Oakland (1-0)

You can bet that Raiders fans are stoked over the team’s performance at Tennessee, especially the balance on offense. Marshawn Lynch was in Beast Mode and eight players caught passes from Derek Carr.

The Jets probably don’t have eight players who would make Oakland’s roster. But at least they didn’t get blown out in Buffalo last Sunday. That certainly could change this weekend.

San Francisco (0-1) at Seattle (0-1)

Once a terrific NFC West rivalry, the Seahawks have won six straight overall, and the last six matchups in Seattle, including playoffs. The Niners did little right in their home loss to Carolina as Kyle Shanahan made his debut as a head coach.

Seattle looked pretty bad, too, but at least it was at Lambeau Field, where the Seahawks rarely prosper. They need to get the run game going after QB Russell Wilson was their top rusher with 40 yards. Getting RB Thomas Rawls back from a high-ankle sprain would help immensely.

Washington (0-1) at Los Angeles Rams (1-0)

For the first time in his short NFL career, Jared Goff looked like a pro quarterback in the Rams’ rout of the Colts. Rookie coach Sean McVay, 31, earned his first victory as the youngest head coach in modern league history, and he gets back star DT Aaron Donald from a holdout.

That doesn’t bode well for a Washington team that looked downright mediocre in losing to Philadelphia. The Redskins’ third-down defense, worst in the NFL last season, allowed Philadelphia to convert eight of 14 opportunities.

Cleveland (0-1) at Baltimore (1-0)

If the Ravens can mash the Browns on the ground and rush the passer well — both things they mastered in shutting out Cincinnati last week — they will be tough every game. Baltimore QB Joe Flacco is 15-2 lifetime against the Browns, with 24 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Flacco did not complete pass in the second half at Cincinnati; he didn’t need to.

Arizona (0-1) at Indianapolis (0-1)

Both teams come off rough openers. Arizona lost at Detroit and saw star running back David Johnson, one of the NFL’s most versatile players, break his wrist. Look for Larry Fitzgerald to be the focal point of the offense against a weak secondary.

Indy is without Andrew Luck again — and for who knows how long. The Colts put out one of the worst performances of Week 1 in being routed by the Rams.



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