Green Bay Packers (11-6 SU, 10-7 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (13-3 SU,
11-5 ATS), NFC Divisional Playoffs, 8:00 p.m. EST, Saturday, January
15, 2011, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga., TV: FOX
by Badger of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: GB +2/ATL -2
Over/Under Total: 45.5
The second game of the NFLís ďRematch SaturdayĒ in the Divisional Playoffs features the NFCís version of another retry, when the Green Bay Packers return to the Georgia Dome for a second time this season for another match against the Atlanta Falcons in a primetime showdown on Fox.
The Pack earned a second chance at Atlanta this weekend after their, 21-16, victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the wildcard game in Philly last Sunday. The Packers found a running game with rookie James Starks (23 carries, 123 yards) against the Eagles, and Aaron Rodgers was deadly with play-action resulting in three touchdowns in just 180 yards in the wildcard win on the road.
Now itís back on the road to Atlanta where the Falcons will be rested and waiting, with time to dissect the game film from their, 20-17, victory over the Packers in the Georgia Dome back in late November to try and scheme for another win. The Falcons have essentially had two weeks off counting their 31-10 win over hapless Carolina in the finale, so the Georgia Dome should be loud with anticipation for their first NFC Divisional playoff game in years.
The opening betting line out of Las Vegas listed the Falcons as just 2-point favorites at home in the G-Dome, so even the oddsmakers are anticipating a close game. Most of the early money is coming in on the Packers, causing some offshore sportsbooks to drop the point spread down to Falcons minus 1-point, but thereís still plenty of books still listing the number at 2-points so not everyone has their short-memory sights set on Green Bay.
The over/under total opened at 45.5 and has dropped to 45 at a few sportsbooks, but for the most part the original number is holding allowing you to get the hook if you want it.
Itís surprising to say this, but the role of Starks in the Packers running game has become a big key to this game offensively. Back in week 12 the Packers ran for 77 yards in the game, but 51 of those yards came as Rodgers was scrambling for his life, so the Packers run game was completely non-existent in the earlier loss.
Rodgers still went on to throw for 344 yards, but suffered the first of his two concussions of the season at the end of the game, so the Packers must find a way to keep the Falcons from slapping him around as much as the did in the first game.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was deadly in the first game, going 24- of-28 in his passing, but the Falcon offense as a whole struggled to just 293 yards of total offense. What proved to be the difference was the run game of Michael Turner, gaining 110 yards on the ground with a score to help grind the ball into field goal range for Matt Bryantís 47-yarder won it with nine seconds left in the game.
The Falcons will need Turner to be the same bowling-pin runner his was in the first meeting, especially now since the Packers got defensive end Cullen Jenkins back last week versus the Eagles to fortify the d-line, to try and duplicate the same results as early and give the Falcons a shot at the NFC title game.
Trying to successfully handicap this game based on the betting trends will be a tough proposition this week, because a lot of them contradict each other.
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For instance, the Packers are getting the early steam at the window and could be a great pick since the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the head- to-head series between these two teams, and the road team is also an attractive 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings. But the Packers are just 1-5 ATS in those same six meetings, including a non-cover as (ironically) 2.5-point underdogs this season, so the one non-cover in those 5-1 ATS numbers is on the Packers.
The Falcons are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games overall and a solid 10-4 ATS as a home favorite in the Georgia Dome where Ryan is something like 18-2 SU in his career. But the pressure is different in the playoffs and the Falcons donít do as well against teams that have a winning record on the road (9-20-1 ATS in L30 home games vs. winning record).
The over/under betting trends contradict too, with the under going 8-1 in Packer road games this year and 5-1 on fieldturf surfaces, while itís the over thatís a perfect 6-0 in the Falcons last six Saturday games and 7-2-2 in the Falcons last 11 games overall.
Badgerís Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Itís tough to beat a team twice in the same building in the same season. Plus, I think the Packers defense is playing better football right now, which is huge in the playoffs. Iím taking the Packers plus the points.
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