Atlanta Falcons (5-7 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Green Bay Packers (9-3 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
NFL Football Week 14
Date and Time: December 8 8:30pm ET
Where: Lambeau Field
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ATL +13/GB -13
Over/Under Total: 56
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Im sure the schedule makers for Monday Night Football had big ideas for this week when the season opened but things are seldom predictable in the NFL and this weeks MNF matchup features a struggling Atlanta Falcons team against the Green Bay Packers. As it is, both teams are in first place in their respective divisions but the Packers have ascended to the top of the NFL heap after dispatching the Patriots last week while the Falcons are fighting for what might be a comical 7-9 playoff berth. Both teams have a lot to play for so we could always see a spirited match and Green Bay could be in line for a bit of a letdown after an emotional win last week.
Given the very well known home field advantage of Lambeau Field and the relative inability of Matt Ryan to produce on the road, it is no surprise that the online betting sites have Green Bay favored by 12.5 or 13. Atlanta simply isnt a quality road team, losing five of the last six against the spread as the visitor while Green Bay has 33 ATS wins in their last 51 home games. The Pack is 7-2 against the spread in the last nine weeks but often struggles against lesser competition, going just 1-7 ATS in their last eight against teams with a sub-.500 record.
Who really knows if any game is a must win for a team in the NFC South but the Falcons should be playing like it is. They have reeled of three wins in the last four weeks, beating Arizona most recently while dropping Tampa and Carolina as well. They havent really beaten any good teams this year but they do have the offense to test a rather average Green Bay defense. Atlanta is 9th in total yards, 12th in scoring and faces a playmaking defense but one that gives up the 7th most yards and the 3rd most to the rush.
The Packer offense has been next-level good during Aaron Rodgers latest MVP campaign. A-Rod has thrown 32 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions and has Green Bay ranked 2nd in points per game at 31.7 per contest. The Falcons are good enough to move the ball against this defense but Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers will allow some yardage in order to make a few splash plays and turn the other team over. Green Bay has 15 interceptions entering the week and 28 sacks. Given the offensive efficiency, the defense only needs a stop or two a half to lend Green Bay the upper hand overall.
Matt Ryan needs his full complement of skill players if the Falcons want to pull the upset. Roddy White is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. His absence not only takes a quality target away but also lets coverage roll to Julio Jones, limiting his impact. Jones leads the team with 1,169 receiving yards and five touchdowns but could easily be taken away if White is our limited. Devin Hester and Harry Douglas would be tasked with picking up the slack. Steven Jackson doesnt have much tread left on the tires but could be the key to stopping Green Bays offense. Jackson will get to run against the 29th ranked run defense and a ball control game plan would help keep Rodgers off the field and allow Atlanta to stay in the game as long as possible. Jackson is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry this year but is still a bruising runner and could force the Packers out of their speed packages.
It is a pretty simple formula for Green Bay on offense. Rodgers to Jordy Nelson, Rodgers to Randall Cobb and batter the front line with Eddie Lacy. This is really a four-man offense but that has been more than enough in most games and Rodgers can always find a Davante Adams or Andrew Quarless if the defense wants to sell out elsewhere. Nelson and Cobb have combined for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns so good luck taking that away. Atlanta is 32nd in total yards allowed, also 32nd in pass defense and gives up 24.9 points per game. I doubt Green Bay will find themselves off schedule much on Monday night.
Green Bay is getting its usual heavy love from the public, pushing an early 11 point line all the way to 13 by mid-week and there was no stopping that after the win against New England. The 13 legitimately scares me after the Packers struggled to a 24-21 win in Minnesota and has looked ordinary at times when the offense is getting field goals instead of touchdowns. They can be beat, even at home but I sincerely doubt Atlanta is the team to do so. The weather doesnt look to be bad for Monday night but it is Lambeau in December so these games will start slowing down at some point, especially as Green Bay turns more and more to Eddie Lacy. I think the Pack has a relatively easy go of it but I like the Falcons to put 20 on the board and that gives them enough to cover as Green Bay tops out right around 30. Call it 31-20 Packers so take the Dirty Birds with the points.
Evergreens Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Atlanta