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Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons Pick

Green Bay Packers (4-0 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS), 8:20 p.m. EST, Week 5 NFL, Sunday, October 9, 2011, Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga., TV: NBC
by Badger, NFL Handicapper,

Point Spread: GB -5.5/ATL +5.5
Over/Under Total: 53.5

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Two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks will meet in a rematch of last year’s second-round NFC playoff game when Aaron Rodgers and the defending champion Green Bay Packers travel to the Georgia Dome to play Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons on NBC’s Sunday Night Football in America.

Rodgers and the Packers enter the Sunday night showdown still perfect on the young season, moving to 4-0 with a lopsided, 49-23, victory over the overmatched Denver Broncos last Sunday. Rodgers was a one-man wrecking crew against the Broncos, throwing for 408 yards and four touchdowns while adding two rushing touchdowns of his own in the rout.

At one point it looked like Ryan and the Falcons would also be entering their rematch with the Packers fresh off of a rout last weekend. But after leading the Seattle Seahawks by 17 points early in the second half they were forced to sweat bullets in the final minutes as the Seahawks turned it into a close game, 30-28.

The Seahawks near comeback and breakdowns by the Falcons defense overshadowed the fact that Ryan and the offense were efficient (2-for-2 in Red Zone, 0 turnovers, 0 sacks) in what will hopefully be a good tune-up for the showdown against the reigning Super Bowl champs.

Oddsmakers are still having a hard time finding bettors that want to be against the Packers though, because after releasing the opening point spread with the Packers as 4.5-point favorites the number shot up a point to 5.5 almost instantly. There are even a few offshore sportsbooks listing the Packers as 6-point favorites on the road, a fact that would fire up the Falcons players if head coach Mike Smith is into that kind of motivation.

The over/under total opened at 53 and has experienced a little line movement up to 53.5 or 54 at most sportsbooks.

With Green Bay you have a known commodity on offense. With Rodgers calling the signals for the 5th-ranked offense in the league (429.2 ypg) the Packers do rely on their 5th-ranked pass offense (319.8 ypg) a little more, but with Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley and the weapons the Packers have on the perimeter you can understand why they are a little pass heavy at times. But they do have a decent enough running game to keep defenses honest (109.5 ypg – 16th). About the only concern in Green Bay about the offense stems around backup right tackle Marshall Newhouse, and whether the second-year guy from TCU who gave up two sacks last week to Denver’s Von Miller can adjust better in his second start this week (filling in for the injured Bryan Bulaga).

The same could also be said about the Falcons offense, except that Ryan and the Falcons offensive line have only had the Seahawks game last week where they seemed to put everything together. Rookie Julio Jones is a great addition to the Falcons passing game of Tony Gonzales and Roddy White, but running back Michael Turner has yet to get on track (99.8 ypg – 19th) so the Falcons will need to get him going in order to take pressure off Ryan to try and do too much.

Both offenses will face defense that have struggled thus far in 2011.

The Packers will face a Falcons defense that has yet to really put together a solid game. The pieces are there, but they have had issues with giving up big yardage (275.5 ypg passing – 24th) and big plays for scores (26.2 ppg allowed – 27th).

The Falcons will play a Packers defense that is weakened in the secondary due to the loss of safety Nick Collins, and it shows since they are giving up 335.8 yards per game (31st). Green Bay has yet to find an effective pass rusher opposite Clay Mathews too, which is making them play a lot more snaps and helping drop them into the lower half of the league in points allowed (24.2 ppg – 18th).

Of course the NFC second-round playoff game the Packers won last year in the Georgia Dome, 48-21, was not the only game these two teams played last season. The Falcons beat the Packers in the Georgia Dome during the regular season, 20-17. In fact, Atlanta seems to have the Packers number both on the field (6-4 SU since 1991) and at the betting window (7-3 ATS).

Most of the betting trends for this game point in favor of Green Bay. Not only are the Packers 5-1 ATS in their last six road games, but the road team is 6-1 ATS in the last seven head-to-head meetings between these two.

The Falcons do play the role of underdog well though, going 5-1 ATS in their last six as a home dog. The underdog is also 6-1 ATS in the last seven head-to-head meetings between these two teams.

The over is historically 5-2 in the last seven meetings. The over is also 10-2 in week 5 the last 12 years for the Packers, and its 11-4 the last 15 time the Falcons have been a home dog.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: 53.5 is a TON of points. Gotta go UNDER here.

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