Green Bay at Atlanta NFC Championship Lines, Free Pick & TV InfoWhen: Sunday, Jan. 22, 3:05 PM ET
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
Stream Option: NFL Live
Opening NFL Lines: Falcons -4 (60.5)
Why Bet on Green Bay?The Packers won at the Cowboys 34-31 on Sunday in a minor upset for their eighth straight win. Aaron Rodgers threw a 36-yard pass to a toe-dragging Jared Cook on the sideline, one of the great throws and catches in NFL playoff history, and Mason Crosby kicked a 51-yard field goal on the next play as time expired.
The throw on the run from Rodgers to Cook came on third-and- 20 with 12 seconds left, and after the Cowboys tied the score twice in the final 4:08 after trailing by 18 in the first half and by 15 to start the fourth quarter. Cook, who had six catches for a team-leading 104 yards, kept both feet inbounds with a knee just above the ground out of bounds on the decisive play.
Rodgers’ streak of 318 passes without an interception was snapped in the third quarter of the Packers’ win, but he still had the best performance. Including playoffs, Rodgers has completed 5-of- 8 passes (63 percent) thrown 30 or more yards downfield in the last minute of the fourth quarter over the last two seasons. The rest of the NFL is 4-of- 46 (nine percent) on such passes over that stretch.
Rodgers broke out of the pocket at the start of the play to give himself time to throw. Rodgers was 7-of-9 for 137 yards and a touchdown when breaking the pocket Sunday, averaging 15.2 yards per attempt on those passes (he averaged 6.4 yards on passes inside the pocket). Rodgers has been near unstoppable from out of the pocket this postseason, completing 14-of- 17 passes.
Micah Hyde’s third-quarter interception, his fourth pick in six games, was just the latest big play for the Packers’ cornerback. It came after Dak Prescott led the Cowboys deep into Packers territory. The heady 26-year- old recognized something he saw on film during the week of preparation and, as cornerback LaDarius Gunter told him just before the snap, he went after it.
Against the Cowboys, injuries hit the secondary again. After Morgan Burnett dropped out in the first half with a thigh bruise, the Packers had to play rookie Kentrell Brice in Burnett’s safety spot, which forced rookie cornerback Josh Hawkins to move into the dime package.
The Packers have some other injury issues to watch this week: WR Davante Adams (ankle), OT David Bakhtiari (knee) and of course Jordy Nelson (ribs) all have issues. Nelson, who led the NFL in TD catches during the regular season, couldn’t play vs. the Cowboys. With Nelson out, Rodgers relied on his tight ends more Sunday than he has all season, including his incredible completion to Cook that set up Crosby’s game-winning field goal. Packers tight ends were targeted 13 times and had 138 yards and two TDs. They had only three TDs in the team’s first 17 games.
Why Bet on Atlanta?In the seven games since their bye, the Falcons are absolutely on fire, averaging 36.6 points per game. The Falcons beat the Seahawks 36-20 on Saturday. Returning to the postseason for the first time in four years, likely NFL MVP Matt Ryan threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Eight players caught passesfrom Ryan. The Falcons are headed to the NFC championship game for only the fourth time in their 51-year history.
Ryan was 10-of- 13 (77 percent) with 154 yards against the blitz in Saturday’s win, including his seven-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones in the second quarter. That is Ryan’s highest completion percentage against extra pass rushers in a playoff game in his career, and tied for his second-highest in any game this season. Ryan was also 8-of- 12 for 132 yards when under duress, tied for his most such completions in a game for the Falcons this season. His 11.8 yards per attempt under pressure are the most against a Seahawks defense in a playoff game in the last 10 postseasons.
Jones looked gimpy on his chronic turf toe against the Seahawks, and while Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Jones is fine, they’ll need him for the whole 60 minutes to keep up with Rodgers. Atlanta defensive end Adrian Clayborn, one of Atlanta’s top pass-rushers, suffered a torn biceps in the Seattle game and is done for the season. Clayborn has 4.5 sacks this season, second on the team behind Vic Beasley Jr.’s 15.5, which leads the league.
Atlanta beat Green Bay 33-32 in Week 8 at the Georgia Dome on a late Ryan pass to Mohamed Sanu. There have been a lot of personnel changes since then (Clay Matthews, Ty Montgomery and Randall Cobb back for Packers; Tevin Coleman for the Falcons). Rodgers was great (four touchdowns, 125.5 rating, 6 of 10 on third downs) but the Green Bay defense struggled to close the deal (it gave up a 75-yard touchdown drive starting with 3:58 remaining). Ryan had three TD throws.
The total for this game is the highest for any playoff game ever if it stays there. The previous high was 59.5 for the 2011 wild-card game between the Saints and Lions. The total went way over when the Saints won 45-28 at Detroit. The highest total line for a regular-season game this century is 61.5 for Rams-49ers game during the 2000 season. The total went under when the Rams beat the 49ers 34-24.
Green Bay at Atlanta NFC Championship Free Pick: Green Bay PackersPackers are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 meetings in Atlanta. Over is 11-1- 1 in Falcons last 13 vs. NFC.
Take Green Bay and go over that high total.