|Ex-Falcon Michael Vick will make his first start in the Georgia Dome as an Eagle on Sunday night.|
Eagles quarterback Michael Vick played against the Falcons in the Georgia Dome in 2009 as a backup. The two-touchdown performance in the Philly win supposedly provided the emotional ice breaker thus marginalizing his return as a starter for Sunday's game.
That's comparable to dropping a bag of ice on the sun and thinking it's cooling things off.
Vick is one of the most competitive athletes in any pro sport. He knows where he's playing and, to a lesser degree, the team he's playing against. He is going to Atlanta knowing that, as former Falcons' teammate Alge Crumpler said, "The stands will look like Christmas because there will be so much red and green."
Vick is still an icon in Atlanta. The fan base is resoundingly behind Matt Ryan, who has led the team to an unprecedented run of sustained success. But some of those fans still love Vick and remember what he did for the franchise last decade.
There also are those who hate Vick, the person and player. They'll all be in the dome, making for a potentially combustible environment in the stands.
The matchup conundrum for Vick will be how he handles himself amid the confluence of what are sure to be mixed emotions in such a high-stakes game on national TV.
He could be so amped up early that he sails some passes or tries to make too many plays with his legs, exposing him to injury against a Falcons defense still licking its wounds from last week's loss to the Bears. Conversely, he could try to remain so much in control that he doesn't play with the tempered recklessness that has made him so dangerous in Act Two of MV7.
They played poorly in Chicago, giving up 30 points and their highly touted offense looking overmatched. The Eagles have owned them recently without Vick having his fair share of the say in the past two wins. Their schedule doesn't get any easier the next three weeks with games at Tampa Bay, at Seattle and a home date with the defending Super Bowl champ Packers.
Losing to Vick would also be painful. Not because there is any personal disdain for Vick -- the franchise has moved on. Nearly all the players he played with in Atlanta are gone, and owner Arthur Blank still loves Vick. He was among the first to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to reinstate Vick after the then-disgraced quarterback was released from prison.
However, listening to members of the crowd scream Vick's name -- as they did when he played in mop-up time two years ago -- and to have someone who once owned the Georgia Dome and the city itself dominate this Sunday afternoon would be tough to swallow, especially since it would include falling to 0-2.
Cam Newton vs. Packers defense
Newton had an historic debut, setting a rookie Week 1 passing record with 422 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona. He gets his first start at home this week against a Packers defense that not only is good but also extremely angry after allowing 34 points to the Saints last week and nearly letting New Orleans rally in the final minute.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera told me that he doesn't think the opponent will be too big for Newton, who Rivera said has a history to play better when the game is bigger. He also said that Newton showed so much against the Cardinals in terms of recognizing coverages and pressures, that they don't have to curtail too many parts of the game plan, despite his lack of experience.
His success against the Cardinals notwithstanding, Newton faces a different type of monster in the Packers. They will show him a variety of personal packages and pre-snap looks -- Green Bay played far more nickel sets against New Orleans than it will against Carolina -- that can confuse even the best of quarterbacks.
The Packers recognize that Newton did a good job against the Cardinals' blitzes, so they might pick their spots to get after Newton early in the game, especially since they're anticipating the Panthers to try to run the ball to control the pace.
A lot of how things play out for Newton will depend on how close Carolina can keep the score. If the Panthers can stay tight, they'll use a balanced offense where Newton plays a role and not The Role. If Green Bay gets out front, though, Newton will have to throw it more than Carolina would like. He'll also get a whole lot of B.J. Raji, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson in his face.
Kyle Orton vs. Denver's fan base -- and the Bengals
If that doesn't come at home against the Bengals this week -- even if Orton plays well -- the outcry for Tebow will grow even louder. Coach John Fox, who isn't even acknowledging the Tebow-Orton issue, is playing the best quarterback after giving Tebow ample opportunity to win the job in the offseason. He won't bail on Orton right away. But if Orton doesn't start performing well in games -- especially against the Bengals -- he will shorten Orton's leash.
What could really make things tough for Orton is if he's outplayed by rookie Andy Dalton or backup Bruce Gradkowski if Dalton's unable to go. This will be a tough game for Denver's offense against a Cincinnati D that's very physical and coming together at all three levels. Orton will have to be a lot better than he was against the Raiders.
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.