A win Sunday against Atlanta Falcons crucial if Green Bay Packers want home field advantage in playoffs
Nov 27, 2010 ~ by Mike Vandermause, Press-Gazette
~The Green Bay Packers will play their most important regular-season game in three years today against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
While the Falcons might not stir up the same kind of buzz for the Packers as the Brett Favre-led Minnesota Vikings, the matchup has huge implications. So much so that Packers players this week didn’t even bother trying to downplay the game’s significance.
“Not to sugar-coat it or nothing, but it’s a big one,” said receiver James Jones. “It’s a big game. They’re 8-2 in the NFC. Everybody is shooting for this playoff run. Everybody wants homefield advantage. It’s a big game and we know the impact this game can take down the road.”
What’s at stake is the chance to claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. Win and the Packers have a legitimate shot to claim that prize. Lose and they can kiss those hopes good-bye.
Not since a Nov. 29, 2007, game at Dallas, with both the Packers and Cowboys sporting 10-1 records, has so much been on the line in a late-season matchup. The Packers lost in Dallas that day, and now almost exactly three years later, they are looking for a better result.
The Packers (7-3) can’t afford to lose ground to the Falcons, who own the best record in the NFC.
“You don’t really want to fall two games plus a tie-breaker behind the Falcons,” said quarterback Aaron Rodgers. “We need to start thinking about homefield advantage and the playoffs, should we be fortunate enough to get there. This is a big game for us.”
How important is homefield advantage? In four of the past six seasons, the No. 1 seed in the NFC qualified for the Super Bowl. The Packers haven’t captured the top seed since 1996, which was the last time they won the Super Bowl.
Players are trained to approach each regular-season game the same, but it’s been difficult this week for the Packers to treat the Falcons as just another opponent.
“You try not to think about it because it’s November, but it’s in the back of your head,” said guard Josh Sitton. “It could potentially be a playoff implicating game.”
It won’t be easy for the Packers, considering Atlanta’s stellar 18-3 home record under coach Mike Smith. But the Packers can counter with some impressive records of their own under Mike McCarthy, including 10-3 in domes and 21-16 overall on the road.
Both teams feature talented quarterbacks that were thrust into starting roles in 2008. Both teams own four-game winning streaks, and both have been playing fundamentally sound and haven’t committed a turnover in the last three games.
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