This fast-paced, high-scoring action will be great for fans to watch, but it’s causing bettors a bit of distress as they try to pick a winner against the spread. The Falcons are six-point favorites and have the better team on paper, but Green Bay has the experience and confidence to pull off an upset. With both sides an intriguing play, it’s best to consult an expert to break down the game and offer advice on which way to lean. There’s no better expert than SportsInformationTraders.com’s Jon Price, who has once again been gracious enough to provide his take and pick for an against the spread victor. Before getting to that, however, here’s a look at the kick-off time and odds for both 2017 NFL Championship games.
Price’s Take: Last week’s NFC battle between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers was an absolute nailbiter that garnered incredibly high ratings, so you can bet that everyone will be tuning back for the NFC Championship. The total for this game opened up at 59.5 points and quickly shot up to 61 points at most sportsbooks before settling in where it currently sits around 60.5.
There are some key stats that you will want to keep in mind for this game for both sides. Fans of the Packers should be thrilled to learn that their team is 7-1 against the spread over its last eight away playoff games. That includes a big win against Dallas last weekend, in which the underdog won straight up. Conversely, Atlanta is an ugly 3-10 against the spread in its last 13 games as a home team favorite
Atlanta fans need not be alarmed, as one of the most important trends for Super Bowl squads favor the Falcons. The Falcons are 4-1 against the spread and have won five straight games leading up to this NFC Championship tilt. Atlanta has caught fire at the right time and trends that go back into previous seasons just don’t apply as much to this current team, which is one of the most complete of the four still remaining with a title chance.
Their opponent cannot say the same, as the Packers defense has been suspect—evidenced last week when they nearly let Dallas complete a comeback during an 18-point fourth quarter—and the offense will go without star wideout Jordy Nelson. Green Bay is running into fatigue and attrition problems, having had to play in the Wild Card round against the New York Giants while the Falcons sat home watching with a bye. Green Bay also had a regular season bye in Week 4 and played a ton of games in a row since. The Falcons came back from their break to handle the Seattle Seahawks in an Divisional Round contest, a great tune-up against a tough opponent that will have Matt Ryan and his Dirty Bird teammates ready for the NFC Championship.
The Falcons boast the best offense in the league, scoring nearly 34 points per game. They are matching up with the No. 19 ranked Packer defense that concedes 24 points per game. During the 2016 campaign, Ryan and the Falcons averaged 295 yards through the air, beating out Aaron Rodgers and his impressive 262 yards per game. If this one turns out to be a shootout, and it likely will, Green Bay is not the team you want to back on defense. The Packers concede 269 yards per game to opposing passers, second worst in the NFL.
|ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 30: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons converses with Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers after their 33-32 win at Georgia Dome on October 30, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)|
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME 2017: PACKERS VS. FALCONS COMMENTS AND STAT PREDICTIONS
Of the NFL's two title matchups this Sunday, the NFC Championship Game between the Green Bay Packers and Atlanta Falcons feels like the most unpredictable.
Both are rematches of regular-season affairs, though the NFC side's initial encounter was much closer. Unlike its counterpart, the early game boasts a pair of quarterbacks who look downright unstoppable and ready to start a fireworks show.
The first contest between the Packers and Falcons came in Week 8, where the former paid a visit to Atlanta and took a one-point loss. The 33-32 affair saw Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan combine for seven touchdown passes and no interceptions. A touchdown with 31 seconds left in regulation decided the game.
So, yes, this is a much-anticipated rematch.
Really, though, as much as storylines and comments surrounding the game should focus on the offenses, it has instead veered toward Green Bay's health woes.
Over at the team's official website, receivers Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis and Geronimo Allison all show up on the injury report. Nelson, the team's leading receiver, hardly played against the New York Giants and didn't against the Dallas Cowboys. Green Bay still scored 38 and 34 points in those games, respectively, both against defenses that ranked among the top-10 scoring defenses.
Still, the buildup to the game has provided another wrinkle—Rodgers is sick.
He doesn't sound like a guy too concerned, though it is hard to ignore the fact a bug seems to exist in Green Bay's locker room.
When one attempts to predict stats for the game, though, even an illness doesn't seem liable to slow Rodgers. Both offenses should roll against opposing units that clearly don't have the ability to keep pace.
Remember, Julio Jones only caught three passes the first time these teams met. Green Bay actually found a way to slow one of the league's best receivers, it just doesn't matter much with Ryan under center.
Instead of Jones carrying the game, Mohamed Sanu caught nine passes for 84 yards and a score and Taylor Gabriel had a bit of a breakout game with three for 68 and a score of his own.
Of course, it helps Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for more than 1,500 yards rushing and 19 total rushing scores. How viable the rushing attack will be while trying to keep up with Rodgers isn't easy to nail down, though.
Sick or not, Rodgers is like Ryan in that it doesn't much matter the name on the back of the jersey. In the last round, he hit tight end Jared Cook with a key throw late to set up the game-winning field goal in Dallas. Cook had caught 30 passes with one score on the year.
Rodgers can't be stopped right now. He's making big plays under pressure, without it, rolling out of the pocket, staying in it. He suggested the Packers would run the table, and they haven't lost since. Even New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has taken time to praise Rodgers this week.
"I think he does things that no one in the league has ever done, or can do, because of his physical ability," Brady said, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud. "Some of the plays he makes are just—they're phenomenal. Not just the throws but the scrambles."
The NFC title game shouldn't take anything away from Ryan. Atlanta finally has a superb supporting cast around a worthwhile MVP contender. But when it comes time to predict a game like this, voting against a buzz saw like Rodgers doesn't make sense.
Unless the illness talk surrounding Green Bay has been vastly downplayed, Rodgers should cruise against a defense that proved it can't handle him. Which, really, would be Atlanta getting in line with the rest of the league.
Even if the outcome does look like a 50-50 scenario, the showdown shouldn't have any problems living up to the hype.