NFC Conference Championship
NFC Conference Championship betting predictions
It’s says a lot about the power of home-field advantage in the NFL that the Atlanta Falcolns are a 4.5-point favorite over the Green Bay Packers entering Sunday’s NFC Championship.
Or maybe it says more about the Packers’ cruddy secondary.
Green Bay is banged up and under-talented at the safety and corner positions. The team ranks 29th in passing touchdowns allowed and second to last in passing yards relinquished. That’s not encouraging when you are going up against a Falcons offense that ranks first in points scored per game.
Unless, of course, the Falcons’ defense also stinks.
Which it does.
The Falcons, like the Packers, hover around the bottom 10 in points forfeited per week. Unlike the Packers, though, they have yet to prove they can stand up eve against unimpressive offensive machines. They are 27th in points allowed, which doesn’t bode well when the Packers’ offense ranks fourth in production.
To be honest, the best thing Atlanta has going for it is the apparent gap between its own offense and Green Bay’s attack. While close in standing, the Packers are actually averaging almost a touchdown less than the Falcons; the former tallies 27 points per game, while the latter puts up 33.8.
This is a huge difference when we’re talking about a 4.5-point spread between two lackluster defenses, neither of which is damningly worse than the other.
But the Packers have been on fire of late. They are riding an eight-game winning streak, including their two playoff victories, during which time they have been averaging a ridiculous 32.1 points per game—right in line with the Falcons’ year-long mean of 33.8.
This is assuming the Falcons have the requisite firepower to match their season-long average. Quarterback Matt Ryan received some MVP love, and the backfield rotation is terrifying, but Julio Jones continues to labor through bumps and bruises. He will play against Green Bay, and the mere threat of him is enough to incite fear in defenses, but there’s no telling if he’ll turn in a trademark dominant performance that, quite frankly, Atlanta needs.
Don’t forget that the Falcons edged out the Packers 33-32 on October 30, either. That was a long time ago, before the Packers offense had hit its stride. So we should expect a similar point total in the NFC Championship meeting, if not a larger one.
Though it seems counterintuitive, knowing this game will probably become a shootout, the NFC’s Super Bowl XL representative will be determined by which side plays more defense. And while that’s a harrowing notion for both squads, it’s a bit more damning for the Falcons.
They have not needed to square off against a truly top-tier offense on a regular basis over the last two months. Their last seven games have come against the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks. The Saints are the only one from this bunch that deployed a first-rate offense, and the Falcons let them tally 32 points.
This lack of quality competition might prove ominous against the Packers, even though the Falcons get to play at home. Aaron Rodgers has piloted Green Bay to 30 or more points in each of its last six games, four of which included meetings against defenses that ranked in the top six or better of points allowed per contest.
That last tidbit, for the record, is categorically crazy—in the best way imaginable.
Some might get caught up in the Packers’ early-season struggles, citing their slow start and stint below .500 as evidence that they don’t have what it takes to win Super Bowl XL. And, in the grand scheme of things, with one of the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers awaiting in the next game, that sentiment may be true.
But the Packers have more than enough to beat the red-hot Falcons.
Which is why they won’t just cover this 4.5-point spread; they’re going to win this game, shootout or not, giving themselves a chance to win the second Super Bowl of the Aaron Rodgers era.
The Pick: Green Bay Packers (+4.5), overMore articles...