There will be plenty of energy at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday night. It’ll be the first regular-season game for the Atlanta Falcons in their new home. And the roof will be open, which has generated more excitement than you’d think for some odd reason.
Well, it will be the first “outdoor” game for the Falcons since they left Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1991. That will be neat, and the weather looks like it will be a perfect late summer evening for the Falcons’ home debut.
Last week, the Falcons squeaked by the Chicago Bears. They won, but it wasn’t pretty. They were just glad to get out of Soldier Field with a victory against a very ordinary team that played above their head against the defending NFC champions.
That’s one thing the Falcons will get this year from every opponent — their best. Teams will judge themselves against the Falcons, since they got to the Super Bowl last year. And you can bet Sunday’s opponent will want an early season litmus test, as well.
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The Green Bay Packers also will want revenge. The Falcons beat them 44-21 in the NFC championship game in January. It really wasn’t that close. The Falcons stymied quarterback Aaron Rodgers to advance to the Super Bowl.
Atlanta’s defense looks better. There is no doubt it is deeper. It will be challenged even more by Rodgers and the Packers. The Falcons had four sacks last week against the Bears, and if they do that against Green Bay, they’ll have an excellent chance to win.
Head coach Dan Quinn likes fast, athletic players. That’s why Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley are the top two headhunters. Atlanta’s depth up front will also be critical, and if it can shut down Green Bay’s running game, Rodgers will be forced to produce. It might be tough if he’s being chased all night.
Atlanta’s running game must do better than it did a week ago. The Falcons managed only 64 yards on 23 carries, which won’t work against Green Bay. Devonta Freeman is being paid too much money to get only 37 yards on 12 carries.
The Falcons have an issue on the offensive line that will be picked on by opponents. Right guard Wes Schweitzer did not look very good in his debut as Chris Chester’s replacement. It might take Schweitzer awhile, but the Falcons can’t wait on that to have the running game be more productive.
New offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian must prepare quarterback Matt Ryan to run an offense that might have a sluggish running game if Schweitzer takes time to get going. The success of using tight end Austin Hooper was a good sign that there will be others on the field for the defenses to cover besides Julio Jones.
All season long, Atlanta must regularly prove it is still the class of the NFC. As long as Rodgers is with the Packers, they’re going to be favored to compete for the conference championship. So, this game is important for the Falcons.
And, it’s the debut in their new home. The Falcons will want to impress in their new digs. The crowd should be crazy; the environment should be electric.
The Falcons don’t want to mess up the night by having another lackluster showing. They need an impressive game to remind everyone why they got to the Super Bowl last season.
Listen to "The Bill Shanks Show" from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on "Middle Georgia’s ESPN" – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.