There's a bonus Monday Night Football as we preview the re-arranged Chiefs v Patriots match-up alongside the Packers v Falcons.
Atlanta Falcons @ Green Bay Packers
A feast of points may well be on offer as Aaron Rodgers and the unbeaten Green Bay Packers welcome Matt Ryan’s Atlanta Falcons to Lambeau Field.
The first month of the 2020 NFL season is capped off on Monday night with a double-header, the originally scheduled contest seeing two teams with vastly contrasting fortunes do battle under the bright lights in Wisconsin.
The 3-0 Packers have been superb thus far, racking up a massive 122 points through the first three weeks of the campaign, including 37 against the Saints just eight days ago. Despite off-season speculation surrounding his long-term future in Green Bay, the incomparable Aaron Rodgers has played brilliantly and the complimentary pieces around him – such as Aaron Jones and Davante Adams – have more than played their parts.
Although Seattle just take preference in the NFC title race right now, the Packers look to be good value at 4/1 to reach the Super Bowl as conference champions. Green Bay were consistently underrated last season, but made the title game regardless off the back of a strangely under-the-radar 13-3 campaign. To date, head coach Matt LaFleur has a 75% win rate in the NFL, and the Packers should be underestimated at your peril.
As for Atlanta, things are significantly less cheery. Much like last season, the Falcons look to be massively underachieving and their current winless record surely has Dan Quinn looking over his shoulder, as we approach the period of the season where the axe begins to fall for underachieving head coaches.
The truly worrying thing about the Falcons though, is the method in which they are losing games. In consecutive weeks now, Atlanta held large leads heading into the final quarter, only to collapse in sensational fashion. The Cowboys and Bears have both benefitted from Atlanta’s apparent inability to play for 60 minutes, so it’s little wonder that the Packers head into this match-up as seven-point favourites.
Positives have been hard to come by in Georgia so far, but one they can hold onto is the performances of wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The former first round draft pick is steadily emerging from the shadow of Julio Jones in Atlanta, and he’s been excellent through the first three weeks, putting up 349 yards and four touchdowns.
Although on paper, the Falcons’ roster is still littered with talent, it’s near impossible to presume they will be able to keep the Packers’ explosive offence at bay due to their dismal play in the secondary. Atlanta shipped 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter in week three, and that was to a Chicago Bears team that are yet to beat an outfit with an NFL win this season. Plus, with all due respect to Nick Foles, he’s no Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers – whether it be through the air or via the tough running of Aaron Jones – are going to score points, and lots of them. That’s a given for a team currently averaging over 40 points per game. However, so will the Falcons.
This Green Bay defence is a tough assignment for Atlanta, but it’s likely that Matt Ryan and co. will be chasing the game for large parts in this one. For a team that is incapable of holding onto a lead, this may well be a blessing in disguise.
Ryan is not an elite game manager, but he can put the ball in the air when it’s required and – as we’ve seen – the Falcons are at least capable of playing solid football for three of the four quarters. Despite poor performances in crunch time, Atlanta average 30 points per game themselves. When paired with the Green Bay offence, this makes the prospect of smashing the Over 56.5 Total Match Points (10/11) very likely in this one.
Ultimately, Monday Night Football is geared up to be a shootout, which Rodgers will eventually win. A master of the craft, it’s difficult to envisage anything but Rodgers out-duelling Matt Ryan down the stretch, but I do think the Falcons will keep this one closer than most seem to think. Luckily from a betting perspective, they get a seven-point start.
Verdict: Atlanta Falcons (+7.0) at 5/6
RequestABet: Both teams to score points in every quarter at 6/1
Patriots @ Chiefs
The game was postponed after Cam Newton tested positive for coronavirus, but the lack of further positives tests in either camp see the game go ahead on Monday.
It's a big shame that Newton misses out as this was the big game of the weekend where we fancied seeing the passing of the torch from one great dynasty to another as Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs could well become the new version of Tom Brady’s New England Patriots.
With Newton under centre for the Patriots now and looking good it would have been a mouth-watering prospect, now it's all about just how Bill Belichick will scheme things to win with either Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham at QB.
It was already just the third time in 18 years that the Patriots have gone into a game as seven-point underdogs, now that's more like 10.5pts with the loss of Newton's running ability and his connection with the likes of Julian Edelman.
The last time the Patriots were such big underdogs was way back in the 2002 Super Bowl when the Rams were 14-point favourites. The Pats, of course, won that one in Brady's first Super Bowl success.
There are so many unknowns for this game now, but one thing we can say for certain is that the Pats will run the ball, and run it hard and run it often. They led the league in rushing after three weeks and gained 250 yards on the ground against the Raiders last week.
The Chiefs are 27th against the run, so expect plenty of Sony Michel, who gained 117 yards last week from just nine carries, and Rex Burkhead, who scored three TDs against Las Vegas.
Running the ball is also the best way to keep Mahomes and that frightening Chiefs offence off the field. KC, though, have shown that they can score from anywhere at anytime so they should still have enough to take this one - winning by more than 11 points though will not be that easy though if New England's run game gets going.