There's something special about Monday Night Football. It's generally reserved for the best teams and the most compelling matchups, and the whole nation is watching. When you factor in a setting like historic Lambeau Field it's even more special, even for the visiting team.
But why is it so special? "I think it's something that you grew up watching and you kind of have always dreamed about playing in those kinds of games, and it's just a different environment," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "To be able to go outside, play under the lights-you really don't get to do that all that often in the NFL, and so when you've got that national platform, the only game that night, it's fun. It's just different, and it's fun to be a part of it."
Steven Jackson agreed, saying that it's still special to play on Monday Night Football, even after so many seasons in the league. "It's those games that we all grew up watching, we all enjoyed, looking forward to it every Monday night, the key match ups," Jackson said, "and no better place to have a Monday night game than in Green Bay."
Even though Lambeau is a special place to play, even for visiting teams, it does present a unique challenge for the Falcons, particularly in December. Steven Jackson believes the team is up for the challenge. 'It's going to be an exciting game," Jackson said. "Green Bay is going to be a tough challenge, especially in Lambeau Field on Monday night, but this is the time of year where teams are fighting for playoff spots and the games are only going to get tougher with more meaning, and I think we're facing a challenge and I think we'll be ready for it."
The Falcons are coming off of a big win against an Arizona team that had the best record in football coming into the game, and they'll try to pull off something similar against Green Bay, a team that is pretty universally at the top of every power rankings list in existence. Matt Ryan conceded that the win over the Cardinals did give the team confidence, but he said that is doesn't impact what they do this week. They have to focus on the Packers. "I think it gives everybody confidence that you know you can go out there and play with anybody in this league, but I think even before last week we had that," Ryan said. "Really, what we did last week is going to have no bearing on what we do Monday night. We've got to focus on our preparation this week, make sure that we're dialed in, make sure that we know our plan, and make sure that we're fresh and ready to play, 7:30 Central time, Monday night, and I think that's where everybody's mindset is at right now."
Steven Jackson believes that the team is starting to consistently play better football and that confidence goes along with that. "I believe as a team, collectively, we've been playing a lot of good football. Defense has been doing a great job of getting turnovers, as well as the offense is moving the ball down the field," Jackson said. "We've just got to make sure that we continue to execute, continue to get better week in and week out, and Green Bay's going to present a tough challenge, but we're up for it."
It's difficult to believe that the Falcons are relevant in December with just five wins this season, but they're on top of the NFC South, and they control their own destiny. Steven Jackson emphasized the importance of taking it one week at a time. "We're number one in the South, and we've got to keep it that way," Jackson said. "Whenever you can control your own destiny, that's the way you want it, so as long as we continue to take it one week at a time and continue to find a way to win, we'll be okay."
Even though it's been a weird season, the team is where they are, and they're in a position to make something out of an otherwise difficult year. "This is what it's all about, and obviously this year has shaken out differently than any other that I've been a part of, but it doesn't matter," Matt Ryan said. "It's set up the way it is and we are where we are, and so this is what it's all about. In December, you want to be in the mix, and you want to start playing your best football right now."
The Falcons are going to have to play their best football on Monday to take care of the Packers, but a win on Monday would keep their NFC South lead secure for another week.