Despite a raging hangover, the Falcons managed to escape Chicago with a win Sunday as they cleared out a couple of cobwebs from their epic Super Bowl LI meltdown against the Patriots.
Atlanta’s head won’t be pounding as bad at home Sunday, when it literally faces the hair of the dog in Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, whose Packers are 3-point underdogs in a rematch of January’s NFC title game.
The Falcons whipped the Pack 44-21 in the final game played at the Georgia Dome and will look to win its third straight game over Green Bay in the past 11 months in their debut at the new $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The most notable difference in the teams since their last meeting is the Packers’ defense, which appeared much improved in Sunday’s 17-9 win over the Seahawks at Lambeau Field. But shutting down Seattle and its suspect offensive line at home is a much different prospect than trying to slow Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the rest of Atlanta’s offense that tied the 2000 St. Louis Rams, aka “The Greatest Show on Turf,” last season as the seventh-highest scoring team in NFL history (540 points).
Ryan, the reigning NFL MVP, turned in a solid performance in the 23-17 win over the Bears, completing 21 of 30 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was 28-for-42 for 311 yards and a TD against Seattle, but threw an interception that would have been returned for a touchdown if not for a penalty.
In a game within the game, Matthews will rush Ryan against Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews, his first cousin.
“So there will be some family-on-family crime there,” Jake Matthews quipped.
The price is right for a play on the Falcons, who will get the party started again in Atlanta on Sunday night in Week 2’s marquee matchup.
Four more plays for Week 2 (home team in CAPS):
JAGUARS (+2) over Titans: Jacksonville’s young, talented defense finished with a franchise-record 10 sacks and forced four turnovers in a dominant 29-7 win over the Houston Texans. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette is the real deal and will take the pressure off much-maligned quarterback Blake Bortles. The Jaguars have won five of their past six at home vs. Tennessee, which is on a 1-10-1 ATS slide on the road against the AFC South.
SEAHAWKS (-13½) over 49ers: It’s usually not wise to lay double digits in the NFL, but in this case it’s warranted. The Seahawks have owned the series vs. San Francisco, going 13-4 ATS in their past 17 meetings and covering their past six at home, where they’re 20-4-1 ATS in September. Also, teams heading home off an opening loss on the road are 36-19-1 ATS. The Seahawks should clamp down on an anemic Niners offense that produced only three points in a 23-3 home loss to Carolina, and they should feast on a San Francisco defense that allowed 30 points per game last season and lost rookie linebacker Reuben Foster to an injury in the opener.
PANTHERS (-7) over Bills: The Panthers’ talented linebacking corps, led by Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, will keep Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy in check. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton shook off the rust vs. the 49ers and will start to find his MVP form at home with weapons Christian McCaffrey, Greg Olsen and Kelvin Benjamin at his disposal. Carolina is on a 15-8-2 ATS run as home favorites, and rebuilding Buffalo is 3-9 ATS vs. the NFC South and 8-19 ATS away off a home win over a division rival.
CHIEFS (-5) over Eagles: Kansas City coach Andy Reid has had ample time to prepare for his former team since the Chiefs’ stunning win at New England on Sept. 7 and is 8-3 all time against his former assistants (Eagles coach Doug Pederson). Philadelphia was 0-2 ATS last season in the second of back-to-back road games.
Last week: 2-3 against the spread
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at email@example.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.