The more games you win, the bigger the games become.
And that’s certainly true with Sunday’s game against Atlanta. The Falcons are 8-2 and own the NFC’s best record. The Packers are 7-3 and tied with Chicago for first place in the NFC North. The winner will take a huge step toward earning homefield advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
“I've played in this league long enough to realize you don't really need to start talking about the postseason until December football,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on Wednesday. “But if you take a step back and realize we've got six games left, these guys are a game ahead of us, and the other teams that are chasing them. You don't really want to fall two games plus a tiebreaker behind the Falcons if you start thinking about homefield advantage in the playoffs, should we be fortunate enough to get there. But it's a big game for us. We know how well Matt plays down there, his record. Coach (Mike) Smith has done a great job with that team. It's going to be a tough game for us, tough environment. I think that we've proven under Coach (Mike) McCarthy what kind of road team we can be.”
While the Packers need this game to really have any chance of earning homefield advantage, this game is vital for the Falcons, too, who have little margin for error in the NFC South with New Orleans and Tampa Bay, both of which are 7-3.
“Obviously, at the beginning of the year, you want to put yourself in good position when it comes down to late November and December,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters. “And that’s kind of when you separate yourself. I think both teams at this point have done that. We’ve put ourselves in good position, but we have to approach it the same way we have all year and prepare as best we can and not be affected by all the external things that go with playing this game.”
One thing working in the Falcons’ favor is being at home. The Packers, fresh off a win at Mall of America Field, now face Ryan, who is 18-1 for his career at the Georgia Dome.
“Well, it’s never easy, that’s for sure,” Ryan said. “But we’ve been successful at home. But what we’ve done in the past really has no bearing on this week. This is a good football team coming in. Certainly, it’s a tough place to come play because it’s loud, being a dome, and our fan base has been great all year. It’s a good football team coming in and hopefully we can get some of whatever we’ve had going the past couple years at home to get going again this weekend.”
Rodgers 2, Favre 2
Through it all, Rodgers has taken the high road regarding Brett Favre. And that hasn’t changed, even a few days after he completed a season sweep of the Vikings to even his personal matchup against Favre at 2-2.
“I think that was often a lot more difficult than the actual playing, was to practice proper leadership daily,” Rodgers said. “That’s something you have on some level. You can also work on that as a skill. That’s something I knew was going to be very important to how I was viewed as a person, leader and player. I’m proud of the fact that we’re on the other side of this. It’s something no one is really talking about as much going forward and I’m proud of the way it played out and was true to my character.”
Meanwhile, Rodgers addressed the smirk shown in this photo.
Is this a smirk?
Hannah Folsien/AP Images
“That was as Brett and I embraced and then he made a funny comment about James Campen as we were separating,” Rodgers said, alluding to the Packers’ offensive line coach. “And I looked back and smirked about his comment about James Campen and they froze it. You can put any tag you want underneath that picture. I can tell you exactly what happened. People are still going to read into that.”
He’s right. So why should anyone believe Rodgers?
“Because that’s never been my personality. Agreed?”
Packers injury report
Out: S Atari Bigby (hamstring). Did not participate: S Anthony Smith (ankle). Limited participation: T Chad Clifton (knee); WR Donald Driver (quad); DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); LB Clay Matthews (shin); C Scott Wells (arch); CB Charles Woodson (toe).
Without Bigby for sure and possibly without Smith – his ankle is “better than we expected,” McCarthy said – the only option at safety behind starters Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah is Jarrett Bush.
Falcons injury report
Did not participate: DE John Abraham (groin); S Shann Schillinger (head); RB Antone Smith (hamstring); WR Roddy White (knee). Limited participation: LB Curtis Lofton (knee); DT Corey Peters (rib); WR Eric Reems (pectoral).
-- Greg Jennings was named the NFC’s offensive player of the week after his three-touchdown performance against Minnesota. Only Antonio Freeman (1998) and Javon Walker (2004) join Jennings with at least seven catches, 150 yards and three touchdowns in a game in Packers history. Aaron Rodgers also was nominated on offense and Tramon Williams was nominated on defense.
-- The Packers’ offensive line was selected the “Madden Most Valuable Protectors” for Week 11. The best performing unit is selected each week by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach John Madden.
-- Rodgers is nominated (with Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger) for the FedEx Air Player of the Week. The winner is selected by fans, with voting at NFL.com/FedEx through Friday morning.
-- McCarthy said he’s “comfortable” with having his starting cornerback, Williams, and “starting” third cornerback, Sam Shields, as his kick returners. “I understand the risk involved,” McCarthy said.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.