Aaron Rodgers should have fond memories of Atlanta. The last time he led the Packers into the Georgia Dome, they routed the Falcons in the second round of the playoffs. Rodgers was unstoppable then, and is playing even better in leading the defending Super Bowl champions to a 4-0 start.
The Falcons hardly have been so formidable, and their 2-2 start puts them third in what might be the NFL’s best division, the NFC South. Atlanta lost only three games in 2010, so if Mr. Rodgers and company continue lighting it up, the Falcons could find themselves in a huge hole.
“It’s fun playing teams like this on Sunday night. The atmosphere, we know what that’s going to be like,” Rodgers said. “We beat them last year pretty good down there. They’re upset about that, I’m sure. It’s going to be a tough game for us.”
Rodgers’ counterpart with the Falcons, Matt Ryan, hasn’t forgotten that 48-21 pasting.
“It takes a little while to get over, but you have to move past it,” Ryan said. “You have to learn from it. Not only myself _ I know I used it as motivation throughout the offseason . … That’s part of playing in this league is you’re going to make some mistakes and you’re going to make some plays that don’t go the way you want. It’s how you respond to those type of things, and I think I’ve had the right response.”
Green Bay certainly has responded in style after its surge from wild card to champion.
“We think this is going to be a hot game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “We’re excited to go down there and play on the big national stage. We’re fully aware probably of how they feel about us. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
The other unbeaten team, Detroit, hosts Chicago on Monday night.
Also Sunday, it’s Tampa Bay at San Francisco, the New York Jets at New England, Oakland at Houston, San Diego at Denver, Philadelphia at Buffalo, Tennessee at Pittsburgh, New Orleans at Carolina, Seattle at the New York Giants, Cincinnati at Jacksonville, Arizona at Minnesota, and Kansas City at Indianapolis.
Off this week are Baltimore (3-1), Cleveland (2-2), Dallas (2-2), Miami (0-4), St. Louis (0-4), and Washington (3-1).
Chicago (2-2) at Detroit (4-0), Monday night
One day more than a decade ago, the Lions hosted a Monday nighter. They lost 35-0 to the Rams, and ABC/ESPN has pretty much avoided them since. With good reason, of course, because Detroit has been a pro football wasteland since Barry Sanders left.
No more, and the Lions are back in the prime-time spotlight against a division rival that has won six in a row in the series _ including Dec. 5, 2010, the last time the Lions lost _ but has the kind of problems (weak offensive line, spotty pass defense, inconsistent quarterback) that plagued Detroit all those years.
“We’ve always played on Thanksgiving because of tradition,” said kicker Jason Hanson, one of the few Lions who played in the franchise’s last Monday night game. “You have to get picked to play on Monday night, so that’s gratifying, but we’ve got to back up the buzz with a good game.”