Green Bay Packers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS)
NFL Week 2
Date/Time: Sunday, September 17 at 8:30pm ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium
by Evergreen, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: GB +3/ATL -3
Over/Under Total: 54.5
New beginnings are exciting and we all got to experience that excitement when the NFL opened for business last week. A new beginning is on tap in Atlanta in week two as the Falcons open a new building and welcome the Green Bay Packers as the first guest to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. We will see how big a home field advantage Atlanta will enjoy in their new place but they will likely need every bit of fan support to knock off Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Green Bay handled a test last week from the playoff hopeful Seahawks and a win this week will firmly establish the Pack atop the NFC hierarchy.
This will be the third meeting between the teams in less than a calendar year and Atlanta is looking to move their record to 3-0. Green Bay took a tough 33-32 loss in October as Matt Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu for a touchdown with just thirty seconds left. The NFC Championship game was not nearly as close with Atlanta jumping out to a 31-0 lead before salting away a 44-21 win and a berth in the big game. Ryan totaled seven touchdown passes over the two games and found Julio Jones to the tune of 180 yards in the NFC Championship game. Devonta Freeman scored three times with scores coming both as a rusher and receiver. Bottling up Jones, Freeman and the rest of the Falcon passing game should be job one for the Packers as there is little chance of winning this one if Ryan is up over 300 yards with 3+ touchdowns. Rodgers can hold his own and certainly match anything the Falcon passing game puts up but Green Bays defense is still on notice until they hold down a top flight offense. They did do well in limiting Seattle last week but it appears that the Seahawk offensive line is in shambles so that may not be a good barometer. Atlanta is a class ahead of Seattle in that regard.
There has been a little motion with this spread as Atlanta opened as a skinny one-point fave but the line has moved to ATL -3 by midweek. Not surprisingly, Green Bay is getting about 67% of the public betting love, which is about standard for them. The Packers are 5-1 against the spread in their last six overall and also 5-1 ATS in the last six against the NFC. The Falcons like the NFC as well with six ATS wins in their last eight conference games. The over/under total for this game is in the 54 point range and the over has hit in 16 of the last 24 Atlanta games. Green Bay is 2nd according the Sagarin computers, about two rating points ahead of 7th rated Atlanta. The offense-defense method is predicting a 36-28 Falcon win.
I thought Green Bay was ripe for the upset last week and I got it half right after the Packers laid an egg in the first half and trailed 3-0. Things got going in the second half thanks to a Russell Wilson fumble deep in Seattle territory that the Packers converted into a touchdown. Rodgers found Jordy Nelson on a 32-yard strike later on and Green Bay emerged with a 17-9 win. It wasnt a vintage performance but passable for week one and the big positive was the improved play of the Green Bay defense. They held Seattle to 225 yards total and got to Wilson for three sacks with Mike Daniels getting 1.5 while disrupting the pocket all day. If Seattle really is a mess, maybe that defensive performance doesnt age well but the Pack gets credit for one week and it looks like they have a leg up over last years team in terms of taking on Atlantas offense.
Atlanta showed some rust as well as they were taken to the limit in Chicago before escaping with a 23-17 win. Ryan found tight end Austin Hooper for an 88-yard touchdown and Devonta Freeman found the endzone so most of the pieces were in place but the Falcons just couldnt shake the pesky Bears. The Falcon defense did well in limiting Jordan Howard but they lost track of Tarik Cohen both in the run and pass game. If you dont know Cohen, just ask one of your fantasy football friends, they will tell you everything. Atlanta racked up five sacks against Chicago and they could be in for a another good day as Rodgers likes to hold the ball and Green Bay is dealing with some offensive line injuries. Bryan Bulaga missed last week and is questionable for Sunday with Jason Spriggs added this week due to hamstring. The O-line is thin for the Pack so watch their play early as they tend to spell out what kind of day they will have right from the get-go.
One of the big intangibles for Sunday is that new stadium juice that will be going on.
One one hand, I could assume Atlanta will come out strong with a raucous crowd keeping them inspired all night. I could also see them being a bit tight as they were last week and that is not a good thing when you have an MVP caliber QB opposing you. Rodgers could get the Packers out to a 13-3 lead and just play even ball the rest of the way to steal an upset even if Atlanta does find their feet. I think the first scenario is the more likely and the fact that the Falcons had to scrape in Chicago was a good eye-opener for those who thought another run to the Super Bowl was going to be easy.
I know there is a three point line attached to this game but this feels so much more like a pickem than anything else. I see either team in winning scenarios but I think it will be by six or seven rather than two or three. If your are inclined to bet Green Bay, I think I would skip the spread and take the money line value. Im going to take Atlanta and lay the three ultimately because Green Bay has to prove they can win this game after two recent Ls. I know beating a team three times in a row is tough in the NFL but there has been nearly zero change in the rosters since last season and Green Bay tends to struggle against teams that are better than they are on paper. Atlanta is just slightly ahead of them on paper, basically due to home field and having the kind of weapons that the Packers D is often burned by. It wont be a blowout like the last time but Atlanta goes to 2-0 behind a crazy crowd and gets a 34-28 win.
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