Shootout Expected in Falcons and Packers NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl 51
The Atlanta Falcons (12-5) and Green Bay Packers (12-6) engage in an expected shootout Sunday as a playoff record total of 61 is posted at many sports books. The Falcons have taken some late-week money driving the line to 6 at top-rated sports books BookMaker and BetOnline.
The Falcons are now 14-3 to the 'over' this season, while the Packers enter the NFC Championship on a 6-0 over the total run scoring at least 30 points in all six victories. Atlanta scored a league-best 540 points this season and averaged more than 36 points per game since their week 11 bye. The Packers have scored 32 points per game during their current 8-game winning streak with QB Aaron Rodgers posting a 22-1 TD-to-INT ratio during the streak. The Falcons have won 5-straight games while scoring at least 33 points in each contest, and QB Matt Ryan has a 14-0 TD-to-INT ratio during the winning streak.
Ryan cashed a proposition ticket for us last week in our featured article. He eclipsed the 286.5 passing yards prop with 338 passing yards and 3 TD's as the Falcons flew over the Seahawks 38-20 to deliver us another side winner. Ryan and the Falcons offense should take advantage of a short-handed Packers secondary and balance in their stronger running game to score plenty of points. But the Packers will likely have an answer on offense with QB Rodgers, even playing without star WR Jordy Nelson. Green Bay's playoff experience gives them an edge, but playing back-to-back road games following the upset at Dallas last week favors the Falcons. Green Bay is 6-1-1 ATS as an underdog in the playoffs with QB Rodgers, and the Packers are 7-2 SU and 7-1-1 ATS vs. playoff teams this season. Despite the record-high total, it should be no surprise if both team eclipse 30 points like last week's Packers/Cowboys 34-31 shootout.
This week's AFC and NFC championship games look like strong match-ups, yet we're now seeing both home favorites favored by 6-points with the Falcons and Patriots expected to advance to Super Bowl 51.
The Steelers killer B's of QB Ben, RB Bell and WR Brown are a formidable trio to slow down, and kicker Boswell added to the bunch with 6 field goals last week in a 18-16 win at Kansas City to get the Steelers to the AFC title game. But the Patriots bad boys of QB Brady and head coach Belichick have them in the AFC Championship game for an unprecedented sixth straight season. The winner of this game goes to the Super Bowl for a record 9th time.
The Steelers (13-5) are the hottest team in the AFC with 9 straight wins. They are a formidable foe, and also 7-1-1 ATS in their last nine games as playoff road 'Dog. But the Steelers will have to beat the Patriots (15-2) in Foxboro where they have performed their best. Under QB Tom Brady, the Patriots are 15-3 SU at home in the playoffs, including 8-0 SU vs. greater than .722 opponents. But New England has failed to get the money in most of their recent AFC title tilts, going 1-6 ATS in their last 7 AFC championship games. This game will feature the playoffs top-2 remaining defenses, yet neither are elite and the Patriots faced the weakest schedule this season while allowing less than 16 points per game. Week after week the Patriots faced below average quarterbacks and offenses, and in the two games during the second half of the season in which they faced mere average offenses and above average QBs in Baltimore and Seattle, the Patriots allowed 23 points and over 360 yards to the Ravens including 324 passing by QB Flacco, and 31 points to the Seahawks in a 31-24 home loss in which QB Wilson passed for 348 yards and 3 TDs and the Seahawks totaled over 440 yards offense.
Noting all this, it will come as no surprise if Big Ben and the Steelers offense scores at least 24 points and the two teams combine for more than 50 points to eclipse the posted total.
Our play this week is a look ahead to Super Bowl 51. Many sports books post an advance Super Bowl line and total. Currently the total is 54. Should the Patriots advance to the Super Bowl, they are projected to be a 3 to 3.5 point favorite over the Falcons or Packers. If the Steelers advance, the line is projected as pick 'em with either the Falcons or Packers. Yet, a Pittsburgh road win at New England will likely result in them being a slight favorite in the Super Bowl.
However, regardless of the Super Bowl match-up, we're very likely to see a shootout at NRG Stadium in Houston for Super Bowl 51. The match-ups suggest such, and there will be tons of props and high player yardage totals 'taxed' and posted by the bookmakers. I already bet the Super Bowl 'over' 54 points, and anticipate that total rising. So you can get a head start and likely the best number now by betting over 54 and hope no QBs or other key offensive performers or lineman are injured in the conference championship games.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay