December 03, 2014

After beating one division leader, the Green Bay Packers will get to host another.

The Atlanta Falcons, of course, hardly have the credentials of the Packers' previous opponent - or even a winning record.

The Falcons, though, have won three of four heading into Monday night's visit to Lambeau Field, but they'll have to deny the Packers a season-high fifth consecutive win and seventh in a row at home to add to that stretch.

Green Bay (9-3) moved a step closer to a franchise-record fourth straight division title with a 26-21 victory over AFC East-leading New England last Sunday. Aaron Rodgers added to his MVP candidacy with 368 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Packers remained one game ahead of Detroit in the NFC North.

"We have some big goals, and we're getting into December football now with a chance with everything right in front of us," Rodgers said.

The Packers, winners of eight of nine, will next face a team that almost handed them a damaging loss in the North race last December at Lambeau. After falling behind by 11 points at halftime, Rodgers-less Green Bay didn't take the lead in a 22-21 win until Matt Flynn turned a Matt Ryan fumble into a 2-yard touchdown to Andrew Quarless early in the fourth quarter.

Rodgers has 32 touchdowns to just three interceptions heading into this matchup and leads the NFC's most prolific offense at 31.7 points per game.

The Packers' defense, meanwhile, has allowed an average of 17.3 points in the four consecutive wins.

Rodgers has 20 TDs and no interceptions in six home games. He's topped 300 yards in each of his four matchups with Atlanta, including a playoff game in January 2011, and has totaled nine touchdowns with one interception.

"It's a big challenge for us this week with Aaron Rodgers," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "No doubt, he's playing the best of any quarterback in the NFL right now. He's got a number of weapons he can get it to.

"He's played extremely well at home. I don't think he's thrown an interception at home this season, and I don't even want to talk about how many points they've scored."

The Packers have won three straight over the Falcons (5-7), beginning with the postseason victory, and by all appearances, should be favored for another win.

Atlanta, however, is coming off its most high-profile win of the season, 29-18 over NFC West-leading Arizona last Sunday. The Falcons' other four victories all came in division games.

Ryan had 361 yards - his most since a career-best 448 in the season opener against New Orleans - and connected on two touchdowns in the opening quarter as the Falcons raced to an insurmountable 17-0 lead.

Their patchwork offensive line also paved the way for 142 rushing yards, two shy of matching a season high, and veteran Steven Jackson topped 100 for the first time in 2014.

The win kept Atlanta tied with New Orleans atop the NFC South, but the Falcons have a tougher schedule than the Saints in the final four weeks. Following the trip to Green Bay, they'll host Pittsburgh (7-5) before visiting New Orleans on Dec. 21.

The Saints get to face opponents with a combined 15-32-1 record to wrap up the season. Both teams are trying to avoid becoming the NFL's second division winner with a sub-.500 record in a non-shortened season.

The 2010 Seattle Seahawks are the only team to hold that distinction.

Atlanta might get some help in its quest if receiver Roddy White can return from an ankle injury that caused him to sit out last week. White had one of his best performances of the season before getting hurt with nine catches for 96 yards in a 26-24 loss to Cleveland on Nov. 23.

Packers cornerback Sam Shields' status is unknown because of a concussion suffered last weekend. Linebacker Jamari Lattimore (ankle) was also hurt.

Green Bay last won five in a row Oct. 14-Nov. 18, 2012.

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