The undefeated and defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers (4-0) head down south to the Georgia Dome to enter into battle with the Atlanta Falcons (2-2) for the Sunday Night NFL Football game of the day. As we step into Week 5, the Green Bay Packers continue to live up to their billing as one of the favorites to make this year’s Super Bowl XLVI, behind the outstanding play of Aaron Rodgers, who comes off one of the most impressive outings of his career, and in NFL quarterback history as he threw for 408 yards with 4 TDs passing and 2 TDs rushing. No doubt Atlanta will have their eyes set on an upset at home today, in the hopes of getting some redemption after getting handled in last year’s divisional playoffs, 48-21. However, against a talented offense like Green Bay, there is no question that Atlanta defense, ranked 24th in the league in opponent passing, is going to have its hands full with the likes of Aaron Rodgers and his main targets tight end Jermichael Finley and Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings running the show Sunday Night.
The Falcons come into this match-up needing to improve in a couple of key areas, namely the aforementioned passing defense category, and almost as important, the rushing attack. Getting torched at Seattle last week for 4 TDs and 372 yards (this against an offense that scored only 30 points in the first 3 games of the year combined), does not bode well for the Falcons against a real passing offense, and one of the most talented quarterbacks to play the game. They’ll need to improve on putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers tonight, but for an Atlanta D that has just 5 sacks on the year thus far, that may be a tall order against one of the best offensive fronts in the country. Luckily for the Falcons though, they’ll likely find some wiggle room in their passing game as well (ranked 11th in the NFL at 260.5 yards/game), led by quarterback Matt Ryan, who could find success against a Packers secondary that has allowed 335.8 yards per game through the air (31st in the league).
The Atlanta rushing game has really been the surprise this season, coming in ranked only 19th in the league with just 99.8 yards per game. Michael Turner has simply not been his grinding self after a couple of good 100+ yard games to start the season, as was evident last week in Seattle where he had an excellent first half (2 TDs, one 21 yards to the house), but was subsequently shutdown the rest of the game generating just 70 total yards on 26 carries (2.7 yard average). With Green Bay ranked 2nd in the league allowing just 71 yards per game, the sledding might continue to be slow going, unless Atlanta can open up the passing game with a pair of talent receivers in rookie Julio Jones and star Roddy White, and keep the Packers on their heels a bit.
Betting Lines for the Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons
The top online sportsbook at Bodog.eu favors the Green Bay Packers with -255 odds while the Atlanta Falcons are +215 underdogs on their home turf. The Pack is -6 on the points spread at -105 odds, while the Falcons get 6 points to play with at-115 odds. With two teams that know how to air it out, and come into this match-up putting up a combined 89 points in Week 4, there’s no doubt that the 53 points on the over/under isn’t setting the bar too high, especially considering that in the last meeting between these two teams at the Georgia Dome ended with 69 points scored in the playoffs.
Our Pick to Win:
Green Bay is the real deal. The only area of concern is their defensive secondary, which has been suspect and has given up a number of deep balls leading to an average of 24 points per game allowed over the first 4 weeks. However, there is almost no keeping up with an offense led by Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers that has won 10 straight games dating to last season, has averaged 320 yards in the air, and has a plethora of offensive weapons to keep opponents guessing. The only way Atlanta overcomes this battle today is by limiting Rodgers to just a couple touchdowns, getting a key takeaway or two, and finding some way to get their rushing game scoring early and staying productive throughout the game. We think that’s a tall order against one of only two remaining undefeated teams, therefore the Packers beat the Falcons today by a score of 35-21.
Players to Watch, Atlanta:
Julio Jones, WR – Jones is starting to show why he was a 1st round pick this season, catching 6 balls for 115 yards in Week 3, and 11 balls for 127 yards in Week 4. He’s without a touchdown thus far on the season, so we think he’s due to take advantage of a missed assignment in the Green Bay defensive unit, which will put lots of focus on Roddy White, and notch his first NFL TD today.
Michael Turner, RB – ‘Burner’ Turner isn’t setting fire to anything at the moment, averaging just 2.4 yards/carry over the last two weeks. What is interesting though is that in the two games he’s had 20 or more carries, he’s scored at least one touchdown (2 last week). The Falcons got both their wins when Turner has a rushing TD in the game, so the game plan should lean heavily on Turner getting into the end zone by any means necessary tonight.
Players to Watch, Green Bay:
Aaron Rodgers, QB – It’s a bit of a duh, of course here, but pointing out Rodgers stats are just fun. 12 TDs to 2 picks, 1325 yards passing, and a 73.1 percent completion percentage with a 124.6 passer rating through 4 games. It’s just gross how talented Aaron Rodgers is, able to burn defenses in short and long passes and scrambling out of the pocket, and we should see plenty more of his skills on the field against Atlanta tonight.
Jermichael Finley, TE – My fantasy football tight end for two years (getting a redo after a rough season-ending injury last year), Finley is a beast. The 6’5″, 247 lb. end has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen in TE, and just his presence in the passing game opens up options for Aaron Rodgers all over the field. After coming off a quiet 3 catch, 28 yard effort last week, look for this guy to see much more production, and a short TD catch as the shorter Atlanta defense simply doesn’t have the manpower to keep the football out of Finley’s hands.