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Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Ryan: A QB showdown as good as it gets

Packers' two-time MVP takes on league's reigning award-winner


GREEN BAY – Here's a new one.

Sunday night's Packers-Falcons showdown at new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta will mark the first time in the Mike McCarthy era Green Bay will face the league's reigning MVP quarterback.

The Packers have their own two-time MVP QB in Aaron Rodgers, of course, but the Falcons' Matt Ryan was the one taking home the NFL's most prestigious award in 2016.

As the reigning MVP this year, Ryan is now trying to become the first player since Peyton Manning in 2008-09 to win the award two straight seasons.

The Packers have actually faced three reigning MVPs before in the McCarthy era, but they were all running backs. Seattle's Shaun Alexander won the MVP in 2005, San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006, and Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in 2012.

Here's the rundown of how the Packers fared against those players as reigning MVPs the following season:

  • Nov. 27, 2006, at Seattle – Alexander rushed 40 times for 201 yards in a 34-24 Monday night victory for the Seahawks.
  • Sept. 23, 2007, at Lambeau Field – Tomlinson accumulated 95 yards from scrimmage (62 rushing, 33 receiving) with a touchdown in Green Bay's 31-24 win.
  • Oct. 27, 2013, at the Metrodome – Peterson gained 83 total yards (60 rushing, 23 receiving) and a TD as the Packers rolled to a 44-31 Sunday night triumph.
  • Nov. 24, 2013, at Lambeau Field – Peterson carried 32 times for 146 yards and a score, but Packers backup QB Matt Flynn relieved Scott Tolzien and rallied Green Bay to a 26-26 overtime tie.

That's a 2-1-1 mark for the Packers overall, but only one of those games featured Rodgers, the first meeting with the Vikings in 2013. Not surprisingly, he had one of his best games in that injury-shortened year (24-of-29, 285 yards, two TDs, 130.6 passer rating).

When he was called upon to outplay the league's reigning MVP, he did. Convincingly.

Not that Rodgers has any influence over how well Ryan plays on Sunday night, but it's no secret the quarterback who plays better will go a long way in deciding the outcome.

The last five times Rodgers and Ryan have gone head-to-head – in the 2011, '14 and '16 regular seasons, and the '10 and '16 playoffs – the QB with the better passer rating has been the victor.

Also worth digesting, though, is that over all seven previous Rodgers-Ryan clashes, dating back to 2008, 10 of the 14 passer ratings between the two have been above 100.

This is as good a quarterback matchup as there is in the NFC.

It should also come as no surprise that each QB's best game against the other came with the highest of stakes.

Rodgers torched the Falcons in the 2010 divisional playoff round with a 31-of-36 night for 366 yards and three TDs (136.8 rating), catapulting a run to the Super Bowl title. Ryan returned the favor in last year's NFC Championship Game with similar domination in going 27-of-38 for 392 yards and four scores (139.4 rating).

Not nearly as much is on the line in Week 2 of 2017, obviously, but the Packers aren't thinking as much about what got away last winter as they are about the impact Sunday's outcome could have on the winter to come.

"It's past. They won the game, they went to the Super Bowl. You can't rewrite history," Rodgers said. "It's just two 1-0 teams who both think we can be there at the end of the season.

"These are the type of games, like last week, that you win these games and you feel better in December and January when you're coming down to filling out that 12-team bracket."

While odds would appear good the Packers and Falcons will be two of those 12, and another Rodgers-Ryan showdown could transpire before the curtain closes on the season, don't get distracted by future possibilities and implications.

Enjoy this one for what it is. This pair has collected three MVPs, so far. They don't look done.

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