Fal­cons host Pack­ers in NFC Cham­pi­onship re­match

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE - BY BARRY WIL­NER

The last time they faced off in At­lanta, the Fal­cons routed the Pack­ers for the NFC ti­tle. When they meet tonight, 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.”

T hey 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 Game win with a Su­per Bowl 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 ope­nair home game since 1991, their fi­nal sea­son at At­lanta Ful­tonCounty 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’ 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.

Min­nesota (1-0) at Pitts­burgh (1-0)

The Vik­ings, par­tic­u­larly sec­on­dround run­ning back Dalvin Cook (127 yards rush­ing) were im­pres­sive 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 Sept. 24, 1995.

Cleve­land kept it close against archri­val Pitts­burgh, which seemed out of syn ch. Maybe star RB 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.

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.

Mi­ami (0-0) at L.A. Charg­ers (0-1)

It’s im­pos­si­ble to know what the Dol­phins have after be­ing forced by Hur­ri­cane Irma to move their bye up to open­ing week, too. They’ve spent the week in Cal­i­for nia and fig­ure to be rusty.

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

Wither Odell?

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 prime­time show­case.

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.

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.

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.

Wash­ing­ton (0-1) at L.A. 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, ear ned first vic­tory as the youngest head coach in modern league his­tory, and he gets back star DT Aaron Don­ald from a hold­out.

Cleve­land (0-1) at Bal­ti­more (1-0)

If the Raven scan ma sh 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 Fl acco is 15-2 life­time against the Browns, with 24 touch­downs and 11 in­ter­cep­tions.

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 Lar ry Fitzger­ald to be the fo­cal point of the of­fense against a weak sec­ondary.

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