Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 7, 2014 at 4:00 PM
Generally speaking, you know that a hardfought competitive game is about to take place when two NFL divisional leaders are set to square off on a Monday Night in December. Only real teams can lead a division in December! No pretenders this deep into a season. So, that means this week’s Atlanta/Green Bay game probably has a pointspread of what…about 3-4 points? Maybe 6-7 because Green Bay is on a roll?
Nope…the Green Bay Packers opened at -11 and got bet higher! The markets could care less that the Atlanta Falcons are co-leaders of the NFC South with New Orleans. Or, that Atlanta just easily handled another divisional leader, Arizona, last weekend. Instead…
*Green Bay is seen as a Super Bowl team
*Atlanta is seen as a distant pretender lucky to be in a bad division
For the most part, reasonable minds have to agree with those sentiments based on the team’s won-lost records. But, still, Green Bay may be laying two touchdowns by the time you read this preview! Let’s run through JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats to see if market enthusiasm for Green Bay’s championship hopes (or skepticism about Atlanta’s playoff hopes) is on the money.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Atlanta: 5-7 (#27 schedule in USA Today)
Green Bay: 9-3 (#15 schedule in USA Today)
Well, our first category suggests a big difference. Green Bay is a legitimate 9-3 given they’ve played roughly a league average schedule according to Jeff Sagarin at USA Today. That would suggest a 12-4 finish in terms of the percentages. Anyone who can make a run at 12-4 of 13-3 in today’s NFL is clearly a championship threat. Atlanta is 5-7 against one of the easier schedules in the league. That suggests 4-8 (or even worse) against a league average schedule. For now, you can see where oddsmakers and early sharp bettors were coming from.
Atlanta: 5.7 on offense, 6.1 on defense
Green Bay: 6.2 on offense, 5.4 on defense
And now, more evidence that Atlanta is a bad team in a bad division. They’re -0.4 in YPP differential despite playing a weak schedule. Green Bay is +0.8 vs. a league average schedule. That’s solid…but not necessarily fantastic. Handicappers will have to make a judgment call as to whether that math justifies such a high spread. It’s true that Green Bay will probably be able to do what it wants of offense with a 6.2 offense facing a 6.1 defense. But, in garbage time, Atlanta will be facing a decent but relaxed that will be more worried about running out the clock.
Green Bay: +15
Wow…this is where Green Bay jumps up into championship mode. We’ve seen often over the years that teams who get the best of it in yards-per-play AND turnovers are best positioned to run the table in January. They understand the importance of risk/reward while also being able to move the ball. Atlanta is a contender in a bad division based almost solely on this stat. They’re making up for a negative per-play differential with bonus points off field position.
Atlanta: 5-7 ATS
Green Bay: 7-4-1 ATS
Edge to Green Bay here, and another sign that they’re playing like a champion. Everyone knew entering the season that the Packers would be a top team. Prices were stacked against them…and they’ve been covering anyway. Remember that they didn’t cover the season opener in Seattle. So, that’s 7-3-1 ATS since Week One. Green Bay has sustained a high level of performance. Atlanta has slightly underachieved against much lower expectations.
Current Line: Green Bay by 12.5, total of 56
There were reports that some sportsbooks were considering -13…and we all know that game day money often floods in on favorites in big TV matchups that will generate large viewership. How line will the number go before it’s “too high?” How do you factor in the potential for garbage time points for Atlanta…or even upset possibilities with the Packers in a letdown spot off big recent home victories over Philadelphia and New England? Will Atlanta see the best of Green Bay? Or “flat” Green Bay that’s started thinking too soon about January?
JIM HURLEY knows that Monday is the most important betting day of the week. He’s been working with his full team of experts all weekend to make sure you get the right side (or total) in this potential playoff preview. His on-site sources will know Green Bay’s mindset. Is computer simulations will show the percentage impact of potential garbage time in a spread this high. And, it will all add up to a BIG, JUICY WINNER for NETWORK clients.
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Two great days of college basketball action are on tap before we return to the NFL. Here’s what’s coming up over the next few days here in the NOTEBOOK…
Tuesday: College Hoops TV Preview…Louisville at Indiana on ESPN
Wednesday: College Hoops TV Preview…Kansas at Georgetown on FOX1
Thursday: NFL TV Preview…Arizona at St. Louis on the NFL Network
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