#288 Atlanta Falconsvs.#287 Green Bay Packers
Written by Ricky Dimon
Green Bay Packers (1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 0-1 O/U) vs. Atlanta Falcons (1-0 SU, 0-1 ATS, 0-1 O/U)
NFL: Sunday, September 17, 2017 at 8:30 p.m. EST
The Line: Atlanta Falcons -2.5. Total: 53.5.
Both the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers are coming off Week 1 victories as they head into a showdown in what will be the first-ever regular-season game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Sunday night. The Falcons made a late defensive stand to prevail at Chicago, while Green Bay took care of business at home against Seattle.
Atlanta has been the Packers’ home away from home of late–it just hasn’t been a welcoming home. They have already paid two visits to the Falcons since late October of last year. For those counting, that means Green Bay will play Atlanta on the road three times in less than 11 months. The Falcons prevailed 33-32 on Oct. 30 and again via a 44-21 blowout in the NFC Championship in January. In the regular-season contest, Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 28 of 38 passes for 24 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions only to see the defense give up a game-winning touchdown with 31 seconds remaining. In the playoffs, Rodgers threw for 287 yards and three scores but was picked off once. Again the Packers’ defense had little hope of stopping Atlanta, which got 387 passing yards and four scores from MVP Matt Ryan.
Green Bay had a much different kind of 2017 opener this past Sunday, when it took care of visiting Seattle 17-9. The Seahawks amassed only 225 yards of total offense and failed to reach the 100-yard mark on the ground.
The Falcons know perhaps better than anyone that the way to beat Green Bay is to put pressure on Rodgers. It is almost always true that you can’t stop Rodgers; you can only hope to contain him. A strong pass rush can do that. Atlanta did a decent job of it last season, especially in the NFC Championship. Still, head coach Dan Quinn put a big emphasis this offseason on improving the defensive line, most notably in the addition of tackle Dontari Poe. In a 23-17 Week 1 victory over Chicago, the Falcons had four sacks–two by Brooks Reed and one each for Vic Beasley (the NFL’s sack leader in 2016) and Brian Poole. Reed’s second takedown came on the Bears’ final offensive play of the game on 4th-and-goal. In addition to depth being added on the defensive line, the Falcons’ front is also playing with a more aggressive mindset according to both Quinn and Beasley.
“We were just rushing relentlessly,” Beasley said. “Everybody came ready to play. We were able to get some good pressure in his face. That’s what we knew we had to do to get the win.”
The Green Bay Packers are:
The Atlanta Falcons are:
The Falcons seem to have Green Bay’s number at the moment–at least at home. They lost at Lambeau Field in 2014 but took care of business at the Georgia Dome twice last season. That building no longer hosts the Falcons, but the atmosphere should be raucous for the first regular-season game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday night. The Falcons are 6-2 ATS in their last eight against the NFC, 6-2 ATS in their last eight on grass, 9-4 ATS in their last 13 following a win, and 7-1 ATS in their las eight Week 2 contests. Don’t be surprised if those trends continue.
The Falcons’ vaunted offense is led by the likes of Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman. Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel also get plenty of praise. But an unexpected star emerged in the form of Austin Hooper when Atlanta went into Chicago this past weekend. Hooper was targeted only twice, but he caught both of those balls and turned them into a whopping 128 yards and a touchdown. “I knew he had some speed,” Ryan said. “He’s sneaky with his ability to run.” The over is 7-1 in the Packers’ last eight overall, 4-0 in their last four on the road, 7-1 in their last eight against the NFC, 5-0 in their last five against winning opponents, and 4-1 in their last five on grass. It is also 16-4-1 in the Falcons’ last 21 overall, 11-0 in their last 11 at home, 12-3-1 in their last 16 against the NFC, 6-0 in their last six against winning opponents, and 6-0-1 in their last seven following a win. Look for this one to go over the total.
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A 2006 graduate of Davidson College, Ricky is a freelance sports writer based in Atlanta, Georgia. He has previously worked with various websites in the sports handicapping industry and is generally a fan of going with the hot hand while in most cases showing a willingness to take favorites and give the points. Beyond the four major sports, Ricky is an avid tennis fan—and writer—and covers the ATP Tour on a daily basis.