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Packers vs. Falcons Money Line Playoff Predictions

Green Bay Packers(12-6) @ Atlanta Falcons(12-5)

  • Where: Georgia Dome. Atlanta, GA
  • When: January 22, 2017 3:05 pm EST
  • Spread: Green Bay +4 (+100) at Atlanta -4 (-120)
  • Moneyline: Green Bay (+170) at Atlanta (-200)
  • Over / Under: Over 61.5 (-110) vs Under 61.5 (-110)

Ho-hum. Another weekend, another miracle by Aaron Rodgers. In the Wild-Card Round, a trademark Hail Mary helped put away the New York Giants (Rodgers has gotten so good at those, they’re more like What’s Up Marys). Then in Jerryworld, the QB’s amazing scramble and down-field throw against a “Prevent” defense gave Green Bay an improbable last-minute win in regulation.

But now, the lanky Lambeau leader takes on his toughest challenge yet – attempting to lead a decimated Packer receiving corps to a ninth-straight victory and an NFC championship.

Star pass-catcher Jordy Nelson is probably still out. Davante Adams has an ankle sprain and may miss Sunday’s contest as well. Geronimo Allison is dealing with a drug misdemeanor and is not practicing. Even with a first-ballot Hall of Famer handling the reins, can the positives outweigh the negatives?

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons are favored to win the last-ever NFL game held at the Georgia Dome. QB Matt Ryan has brushed aside years of doubts with his best season yet. And the Dirty Birds are working on a five-game win streak of their own, having clobbered Seattle last week.

The O/U is set at a healthy 61.5 points at Bovada, indicating that bookies expect a high-scoring QB’s duel. But as with the AFC title game the point spread has been volatile, dropping to (-4) from an opening line favoring Atlanta by a touchdown. Bovada is also sweetening the pot on Green Bay ATS with (+100) odds.

All systems go for the Falcons

Casual fans see a similarity in the two offenses competing for the NFC crown. Excellent QB play, lots of big gainers. But bettors would be wise to consider the differences.

Atlanta’s offense is a methodical beast which needs consistency to function. A slick, pass-first offense will struggle if the QB is blasted, but 1000+ rushing yards from Davonta Freeman and a healthy OL have kept Ryan safe in the pocket. The 31-year old Boston College alum has shown he can flourish on a talented team, passing for almost 5000 yards in the regular season and a 3-0 TD to INT margin against a tough defense in the Divisional Round.

Apart from fireworks through the air (WR Julio Jones is averaging 16+ yards per catch, and grabbed six more in the game), how did the Falcons beat the ‘Hawks so handily? The improved Atlanta defense contained the run, holding Russell Wilson and company to 100-ish yards on the ground. But the team was also lucky in the turnover department, fumbling twice but never losing possession.

The ‘Birds are installed as shallow money line favorites, thanks to home-field advantage. But does the final-game-in-the-Dome story affect wager values at all? Probably not. What it adds in motivation on the Atlanta side, it also adds in pressure – who wants to lose their final game at a historic venue?

The Packers’ defense will tell the story

Packers at Falcons Playoff PreviewThe Packers’ playbook, in Civil War terms, gets there the “fustest with the mostest.” The basic play is a stretch run off-tackle (even though it’s not used as often, or as effectively these days), off of which Rodgers’ deadly roll-outs and other mayhem is based. The Green Bay offense operates with more functional team speed than anyone else and is lightning-quick to find open space, especially when the play breaks down.

That’s almost impossible to stop, given the legendary QB’s skill-set.

But Green Bay is more effective playing catch-up in the 4th quarter than an entire game. The Falcons can win if the Green Bay defense cannot disrupt a top-notch offense on the road. The Pack has struggled mightily to stop good teams, though one could argue that the ‘D proved itself last Sunday. The unit generated a decent pass rush early, but at the end of the day it was a basketball game between two point guards – Prescott and Rodgers.

Head coach Mike McCarthy will look for Julius Peppers, a fearsome pass rusher, to be a one-man show against Ryan in the opening half – and hopefully open up some rush lanes for other defenders. Sam Shields and at least two other Packer CBs will not dress on Sunday, adding to the injury woes and likely accounting for the rising O/U line, which opened at under 60.

Prop up your stake

Bovada Sportsbook is offering 37 prop bets for the NFC Championship. One possible value bet is the over on “number of total QB sacks” for both teams currently set at 4 1/2. Passers tend to hold on to the ball a little longer in championship NFL games.

If the Falcons are winning, Rodgers will go crazy trying to drive the ball – which could lead to a couple of Vic Beasley sacks (the OLB tallied 15.5 over the regular season) even if the comeback happens. If the Packers are leading, Peppers will ignore play-action fakes and tee off on Matt Ryan.

Play the Pack’s trump card

Bet on the Packers ML for an upset special in the NFC Championship Game at Bovada.

Coaches are criticized for saying that the QB position is just another position. But most HCs understand the importance of a quarterback. Regardless, common sense applies when analyzing the roster spot. Stars can be out-played by other stars. Your 5000-yard passer might be really, really good. Joe Montana was better.

It’s easy to be impressed by Matt Ryan – the Atlanta passing game has been prolific. He is the younger of the two QBs and has a more consistent defense, a healthier OL and the best tailback on the field.

But Rodgers is playing like a man possessed, lifting an entire battered Packer team with him. Though Sunday’s winner is far from certain, there is no value in betting against a legend at the top of his game.

The over is a plus-percentage wager, since the teams’ last ten combined contests have all gone above the O/U. But a rising line gives pause. The best payoff available – and incidentally the most fun – is a play on the Packers and their searing-hot QB to upset the Falcons or prevail ATS.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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