Free NFL Picks: Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons Odds and Expert Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/18/2017
By most accounts, this has been the worst NFL Playoffs ever for various sportsbooks, be they of the Las Vegas brick-and-mortar variety or those offshore options listed here at Doc's. The books are 0-8 thus far. The public hammered the four favorites in the wild-card round, and they all won and covered easily.
Last week was more of a split but still a big win for bettors. The favored Patriots and Falcons on Saturday were bet heavy and they won and covered over the Texans and Seahawks, respectively. On Sunday, the heavy leans were on underdogs Green Bay in Dallas and Pittsburgh in Kansas City, and the Packers and Steelers won outright. In this space last week, I did recommend the Packers +4.5 and over the total of 52, so that was a double win.
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So while the TV networks would have loved to see the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game after their massive ratings in the divisional round against Green Bay, I'm not sure we could ask for a better matchup than Packers-Falcons this Sunday in what will be the final NFL game ever at the Georgia Dome. I suppose if you are one of those rare people who like 10-3 defensive slugfests then this won't be for you.
With all due respect to Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger over on the AFC side, the two best and hottest quarterbacks in the NFL right now are Atlanta's Matt Ryan and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Ryan is almost a lock to win his first MVP trophy and is -825 to do so at 5Dimes, with the field at +475. Rodgers is either going to finish second or third behind Brady.
As I'm sure you know, different sportsbooks will have different spreads and totals on any given NFL game . Packers-Falcons has reached as high as 61.5 at some books. That's believed to be the highest NFL postseason total ever. The highest previous mark for a playoff game was 60 in 2012, when the Saints beat the Lions 45-28. The highest total for a regular-season game was 63 in 2000, when the Rams beat the 49ers 34-24.
At Bovada , the Falcons are +260 to win the Super Bowl and the Packers are +375.
Packers at Falcons Betting Story Lines
Let's get to the key injury first. Packers No. 1 receiver Jordy Nelson, the NFL's regular-season leader in touchdown catches, didn't play in Dallas last week with broken ribs, and it's not looking like he will here. No surprise if you have ever had broken ribs. I would think, however, that Nelson will be ready to go for the Super Bowl should his team win Sunday.
Rodgers didn't miss Nelson a ton last week in throwing for 356 yards and two touchdowns in the 34-31 instant classic win over Dallas, the Packers' eighth straight victory. I'm sure I don't need to rehash frame-by-frame that absolutely ridiculous throw by Rodgers to Jared Cook in the final seconds to get the Packers into position to kick the winning field goal. That was easily the signature throw of Rodgers' career thus far and one of the best in postseason history, coming across his body and considering the situation. With the Cowboys having momentum, I would have favored them in overtime. Green Bay's last two playoff losses were in OT.
While receivers Davante Adams (five catches, 76 yards) and Randall Cobb (seven catches, 62 yards) had solid games, Rodgers no question looked much more to his tight ends with Nelson out. Cook was targeted a team-high 11 times and caught six passes for 104 yards and TD, while Richard Rodgers was targeted twice and caught one ball for a 34-yard TD. That latter score was on a free play after Dallas jumped offside. It was Rodgers' 13th career touchdown pass, including postseason games, when there's been a defensive offside penalty. The next-highest total since 2008, Rodgers' first year as a starter, is three. The Falcons' coaching staff is harping on not jumping offside this week.
The Falcons won their fifth straight game last Saturday, 36-20 over the Seahawks. Ryan improved to 2-4 in his playoff career by throwing for 338 yards and three touchdowns. He has 14 TD passes and no picks in the winning streak. Ryan hit eight different targets vs. Seattle. One concern would be that Julio Jones aggravated a toe injury and didn't finish the game, although he's obviously playing Sunday. Jones had six catches for 67 yards and TD. Green Bay's secondary is its weak link. Dez Bryant torched that group for nine catches for 132 yards and two scores last week.
I would say the Atlanta defense is better than the Cowboys', and it's certainly faster -- typically the starting lineup includes four rookies and three second-year players.. Rodgers was under pressure quite a bit last week and took some big hits, including one right before that amazing pass to Cook. Atlanta did lose end Adrian Clayborn (4.5 sacks this year) to a season-ending torn biceps vs. Seattle. The Seahawks couldn't run the ball at all, and I doubt Green Bay can, either, or even will try to much by the second half.
Packers at Falcons Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes, Atlanta is a 5-point favorite (-110) with a total of 60.5. On the moneyline, the Falcons are -210 and the Packers +175. On the alternate lines, the Falcons are -6 (+103), -5.5 (-105), -4.5 (-115) and -4 (-123). Green Bay is 11-6-1 ATS this season (6-2-1 on road) and 12-6 "over/under" (7-2 on road). Atlanta is 11-6 ATS (4-5 at home) and 14-2-1 O/U (9-0 at home).
The Packers have covered four playoff road games in a row. They are 5-0 ATS in their past five vs. teams with a winning record. Green Bay is 5-1 ATS in its past six following an ATS win. Atlanta is 8-3 ATS in its past 11 following a win. The Falcons are 1-6 ATS in their past seven playoff games. The over is 6-0 in Green Bay's past six games. It is 11-1-1 in Atlanta's past 13 vs. the NFC. The road team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings.
Packers at Falcons Betting Prediction
If the regular-season matchup between these two is any indication, we are in for another classic. The Falcons won at home in Week 8, 33-32, on a Ryan 11-yard TD pass to Mohamed Sanu with just over 30 seconds left. Rodgers then could do nothing when the Packers took possession. I should note that Cobb and WR/RB Ty Montgomery were both out for Green Bay, as was top LB Clay Matthews. Rodgers still had four TD passes. Ryan had three. It was a really well-played game with no turnovers and nearly 700 yards of offense.
If the Falcons lose, it's presumably the final game as their offensive coordinator for Kyle Shanahan as he's expected to get the 49ers' top job. And I say it is. Can't go against Rodgers, even as good as Ryan has been. So take the points. I can't in good conscience recommend going over that big total, although I hope it's a shootout.
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