ATLANTA – The NFC championship is quite a mismatch.
Not on the field, mind you.
The Atlanta Falcons are playing as well as they have all season. Ditto for the Green Bay Packers. It should be quite a shootout when they meet Sunday in the Georgia Dome’s final game, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
But when it comes to the tradition and history of the two franchises, the Packers have a decided edge.
It’s a landslide, really.
Lambeau Field. Cheeseheads. Thirteen NFL championships. Four Super Bowl titles. The snow and the tundra. The green and the gold.
Hmmm … give us a minute.
In 51 seasons, they have played in only one Super Bowl and never won a championship. For much of their existence, the Falcons were burdened with cartoonish ownership, laughable draft picks and horrific personnel moves such as trading away a strong-armed young quarterback in the early 1990s.
Brett Favre went on to have a pretty good career with the Packers.
Favre’s successor understands the significance of playing with such a storied team.
“It’s like no other place in our sport,” said Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has guided the Packers (12-6) to eight straight wins. “As a football historian and someone who’s loved the game since a young age, you realize how special it is to be part of this team, but also know that this team has been around since 1919, and it’s going to be around long after you’re done.”
The Falcons (12-5) don’t have that sort of legacy to fall back on.
But they do have the highest-scoring team in the league, led by MVP candidate Matt Ryan, and a home-field edge that really paid off last week.
The Georgia Dome, which will be torn down after this season and replaced by $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, was as loud as anyone could remember for a divisional-round victory over the Seattle Seahawks. Green Bay’s dramatic upset of the top-seeded Dallas Cowboys ensured one more game would be played at the 70,000-seat stadium with the big top-like roof.
These Falcons are only looking forward. They don’t care what happened before.
“The guys who played here in 1999 aren’t here,” defensive end Dwight Freeney said. “The guys who played in Green Bay in 1995 aren’t there.”
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