NFL Picks: Packers at Falcons Odds and Betting Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 1/13/2011
There is no more coveted regular season prize for an NFL team than the No. 1 conference seed and the first-round bye and home field advantage it comes with. The logic follows that this paves the easiest path to the elusive, and ultimate, prize: a Super Bowl championship.
The Atlanta Falcons are going to put that theory to the test starting this Saturday, Jan. 15. They will host the Green Bay Packers at 8 p.m. in the Georgia Dome in the first of two NFC Divisional Round playoffs.
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However, the Falcons will actually have to buck some recent trends that, at best, suggest that they will be a poor play against the spread this weekend and, at worst, would make them a coin flip to advance.
Over the last 10 years teams with rest and home field advantage in the divisional round of the playoffs have gone just 22-25-1 against the NFL point spread. And since 2005 those teams have posted a feeble 12-12 mark straight up and 9-15 ATS. Last year’s rested hosts did go 3-1 SU and ATS, but that came just a year after they went 1-3.
Atlanta earned the home field edge by virtue of a sensational 13-3 regular season. Last year that led to a dominating 41-13 win by No. 1 seed New Orleans. But two years ago the top seed, Carolina, was stunned 33-13 on its home turf.
But history is not exactly an enemy of the Falcons and they have some equally impressive numbers working in their favor heading into this one. Matt Ryan is an unreal 20-2 straight up at home in his career. He also tied Dan Marino this year for the most regular season wins for a quarterback in the first three years in his career (33). Atlanta is 21-9 ATS as a favorite under Mike Smith and, obviously, they are no joke as the conference’s top seed.
This game is a rematch of a thrilling matchup over Thanksgiving weekend. Atlanta won that game on its own turf, 20-17, with a field goal with nine seconds remaining, stymieing a Green Bay comeback attempt.
The Packers advanced last week by virtue of their more-dominating-than-the-score-suggests 21-16 win at Philadelphia last week. The Pack brings the No. 9 offense and No. 5 defense in the NFL into this game – compared to the No. 15 and No. 16 units for Atlanta – and they seem to be playing their best football at the right time.
Green Bay is a spectacular 19-5 ATS in their last 24 games as an underdog and this team is actually a lot closer to having 14 or even 15 wins than it seems. All six of Green Bay’s losses were by four points or less. Two of the losses were in overtime and five of them were on the road. Also, two of the losses came without Aaron Rodgers and three of the six came away from home against playoff teams.
While much of the focus going into this game will be on the two stud quarterbacks, the key to who wins (and covers) in this contest may be which running back has the better day. James Starks had a breakout performance last week for the Packers in Philadelphia with more than 100 yards. For Atlanta, Michael Turner has been a workhorse for three years and leads a punishing attack.
Another key matchup will be Green Bay’s multifaceted passing attack against Atlanta’s secondary. I feel like the Falcons are a little leaky in their back four and can be exploited. However, in order for that to happen the Packers offensive line, which has been stellar at times and suspect at others, will have to protect Rodgers from Atlanta’s fearsome pass rush.
This game also features two of my favorite, and two of the best, defensive players in football: defensive end Kroy Bierman for Atlanta and linebacker Clay Matthews for Green Bay. They are two of several All Pro-caliber defenders on both sidelines and are both worth watching.
NFL Odds: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta opened as the smallest divisional round favorite in over five years at just -1.0. However, that was promptly bet up to -2.5 as people pounded the Falcons. The total on this game has also seen significant movement, sliding down to its present state at 43.5 despite an open of 45.5.
Packers at Falcons Betting Trends
Packers are 4-1-1 ATS in their last 6 Divisional Playoffs games.
Packers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 road games vs. a team with a winning home record.
Packers are 15-5-1 ATS in their last 21 games as a road underdog.
Packers are 19-7-1 ATS in their last 27 games as an underdog.
Packers are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games overall.
Packers are 7-3-1 ATS in their last 11 games on fieldturf.
Packers are 25-12-1 ATS in their last 38 road games.
Falcons are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games overall.
Falcons are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 vs. NFC.
Falcons are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 games as a home favorite.
Falcons are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 home games.
Falcons are 7-3 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
NFL Picks and Predictions: Packers at Falcons
I will have a rated play on this game so I don’t want to tip my hand on the side. However, I do think that this game is going to go ‘under’ the total. Green Bay’s defense has been playing out of its mind over the last two months. If you discount its trip to New England (the Patriots score on everyone), then the Packers have given up an average of just 11 points per game over the last nine games (dating back to October). Only two teams, the Patriots and these Falcons, have managed 20 points or more.
Further, the Falcons really aren’t a “big play” offense. They methodically move the ball up and down the field, relying on the running game and short passes to get their points. Green Bay is going to be smart enough to put Charles Woodson on Roddy White and to shade help that way. If you take away White there is really a dearth of big play guys on this Atlanta offense. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s defense has given up more than 20 points just one time since mid-November (seven games) and they held the Pack in check in the first meeting.
I don’t think that this is a great situation for the ‘under’ but I do think that it deserves a strong look. I hate to hedge, but I do feel like the Packers could break out in this game. However, right now I’m thinking ‘under’ for this one in a tight, hard fought game.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. You can sign up for his college football and NFL picks and get more information here.
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