After all the hype of last week's Monday Night Football game between the Chiefs and Ravens quickly blew away with the defending champs steamrolling the Ravens in the first half, this week we get another MNF game with a QB that has been lighting all opposing defenses so far.
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers gets to take center stage at home for this Week 4 MNF game, as he and the Packers welcome the Atlanta Falcons to town.
Atlanta's become one of the laughing stocks of the league this year with their blown leads in back-to-back weeks against Dallas and Chicago, and it's because of those horrific efforts that it's going to be hard for most of the market to find their way to Atlanta's side for this game. I mean, it's the 3-0 Packers with Aaron Rodgers up against the 0-3 Falcons who are best for putting up plenty of points early and then subsequently wasting all that effort by blowing games late.
The team matchup already sets up for the "Favorite-Over" combo to be a highly popular one, and with MNF games (and primetime games in general) typically following that same action (favorite/over) each week, you've known all week that oddsmakers are going to likely need Atlanta and/or the 'under' to connect on this game.
Oddsmakers were lucky enough to catch the 'under' connecting (at least vs closing numbers) last week in that Chiefs/Ravens game when the masses expected nothing but touchdowns to be raining down from both sides in that game.
So will that be the case this week?
Will oddsmakers get at least one of the outcomes (side/total) that they'll need against all the Green Bay and Over wagers that they've already taken? Or will it be one of those bloodbath games for sportsbooks in Green Bay dominating this Atlanta team that continually finds ways to lose?
The Packers have been a great investment this season for bettors, starting the season both 3-0 straight up and against the spread. (AP)
(Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under - O/U)
Overall: 0-3 SU, 1-2 ATS, 3-0 O/U
Road: 0-1 SU, 0-1 ATS, 1-0 O/U
Offense PPG: 30.0 (Rank 6)
Defense PPG: 36.0 (Rank 32)
Overall: 3-0 SU, 3-0 ATS, 3-0 O/U
Home: 1-0 SU, 1-0 ATS, 1-0 O/U
Offense PPG: 40.7 (Rank 1)
Defense PPG: 28.3 (Rank 21)
Over vs. Under
Handicapping the Total
Unlike last week where I did believe the total was the better betting option – even though it may not have played out like that – this week it's something I really want no part in.
This was a total that actually opened up at 58 at some spots and stayed there for about a day or so before being dropped to its current number shortly after. Bettors who went that route likely did so largely as a numbers play knowing that the 'under' is always going to be the side the oddsmakers need in this game, and to bet it early knowing that – and subsequently knowing that all that expected 'over' love could have pushed the total even higher – is very interesting.
It's an approach I would side with here if I were forced too, but would prefer to get at least a number of 57 before going low. Even still, I really want no part of this total.
Atlanta may be the best team at blowing big leads this year, but you've got to have quite a bit of success offensively to have the opportunities to blow big leads. Atlanta has put up at least 25 points in all three games so far, and if they were to do that here and Green Bay wins by 7 or 8 points, then this total is another “sweat job” like last week that I particularly want nothing to do with.
Clearly the Falcons know that their defense is disastrous and they've got no choice but to rely on QB Matt Ryan and company in this contest vs Green Bay, and if it does indeed become a shootout, well, the 'under' play is likely dead. Again, highly interested in seeing where this total does ultimately finish – both pre-game on the betting board, and post-game in the betting results – but either side of it is something I'm just not comfortable investing in right now.
Dec. 9, 2018 - Green Bay 34 vs. Atlanta 20, Packers -4, Over 50.5
Sept. 17, 2017 - Atlanta 34 vs. Green Bay 23, Packers -3, Over 55
Jan. 22, 2017 - Atlanta 44 vs. Green Bay 21, Falcons -6.5, Over 59.5
Oct. 30, 2016 - Atlanta 33 vs. Green Bay 32, Falcons -13.5, Over 54.5
Handicapping the Side
No strong opinions on the total leaves the side open to be bet, and it's the side that nobody wants (but the oddsmakers) that I'll gladly gravitate towards here.
The Atlanta Falcons may be on their way to yet another disastrous season, but you don't put up 25+ points a game without eventually backing into some victories. The Falcons may be known for their blown leads and just awful finishes to games to sit at 0-3 SU, but they are still perfect this year in one specific role that does apply this week: The Falcons are 1-0 ATS as an underdog this season.
And for all the heat that the Falcons defense takes for their part in these blown leads, they really aren't that much worse than Green Bay's defense statistically this year. Atlanta comes into this game ranked 24th in the league in Defensive EPA/play (expected points added per play), while the Packers come in at 21st in that same stat.
The defensive struggles Green Bay has had this year have been washed over for the most part because of the 3-0 SU and ATS start, but the Packers have allowed 30 or more in two of their three games, and gave up 21 points to Detroit in their other game.
Yes, Atlanta's 36 points allowed per game (last in NFL) is the thing that's troublesome and will be what Packers supporters come back with as a counterpoint to this perspective, but Green Bay's right there in similar waters allowing 28.3 points per game (21st) if another bad game or two defensively pop up for them again in these next few weeks. And in terms of the quality of opponent these two have faced, Green Bay's previous three foes enter Week 4 with a combined 2-7 SU record. Atlanta's previous three foes are the exact opposite at 7-2.
You eliminate Atlanta's three defeats in those games and Green Bay's three wins and you get records of 2-4 SU for Packers past opponents, and 4-2 for Atlanta's past foes. And remember, Atlanta was in the driver's seat to beat two of those teams.
Finally, the fact that Green Bay was laying a very similar number at home (-7) to Detroit in Week 2 is rather telling and one where I don't specifically agree with the notion that Detroit and Atlanta are essentially the same team. The Lions have coughed up a game this year too, but offensively, Atlanta's the far better team (18th in offense EPA/play vs Detroit's 23rd rank in that regard. Even in defensive EPA/play the Falcons are ranked 24th this year to Detroit's 30th and yet these two get the same handicap in Green Bay?
If you want to knock off the Packers at home, you'd better be able to score points, and that's definitely something the Falcons know how to do. With their stock being so low in the market right now, it all adds up to taking these points with the Falcons by far the best play to make on this game.
Not going as far as saying Atlanta wins this game outright, but I do expect their defense to stiffen up after such awful second halves lately, and it will be that unit that ensures this game finishes within this number. Although a Falcons outright win would not be nearly as surprising to me as I'm sure it would be to most others here.
S Ricardo Allen: Elbow - Out
WR Julio Jones: Hamstring - Questionable
K Younghoe Koo: Groin - Out
DE Takkarist McKinley: Groin - Out
S Keanu Neal: Hamstring - Out
WR Calvin Ridley: Ankle - Questionable
WR Davante Adams: Hamstring - Questionable
CB Jaire Alexander: Hand, Knee - Questionable
DT Kenny Clark: Groin - Questionable
TE Josiah Deguara: Ankle - Questionable
RB Tyler Ervin: Wrist - Questionable
LB Rashan Gary: Ankle - Questionable
TE Marcedes Lewis: Knee - Doubtful
C Corey Linsley: Groin - Questionable
P JK Scott: Illness - Questionable
LB Za'Darius Smith: Ankle - Questionable
Falcons vs. Packers - Predictions
Score Prediction: Green Bay 28 Atlanta 27
Best Bet: Falcons +7.5
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