Packers Falcons Sunday Night
SUNDAY'S NIGHT PREVIEW & THE NLCS
By Jim Hurley:
Let's cut right to the chase with tonight's NFL Sunday Night Game:
GREEN BAY (4-0) at ATLANTA (2-2) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Okay, so what's been the best thing anyone could say about the 2011 Green Bay Packers?
For starters, the defending Super Bowl champs are 4-0 SU (straight-up) and so that means Mike McCarthy's club heads into this night-time duel on a 10-game SU winning streak dating back to last year - that's the longest winning streak in the NFL even though all anyone seems to hear about these days are the Detroit Lions (who've won their last eight in a row)!
And say this for the here-and-now GB Packers:
They probably have not played their best ball of the year despite averaging a league-best 37 points a game - true, QB Aaron Rodgers comes off a regular-season career-best 408 yards passing in last Sunday's 49-23 win/cover against 12-point underdog Denver in which he also threw four scoring strikes and ran for two TDs (the first player in NFL history to accomplish that feat) but the fact remains that the Packers are still learning about themselves as TE Jermichael Finley (three touchdown grabs in the 27-17 win at Chicago back in Week 3 action) continues to integrate himself into this high-octane offense and this defense keeps realizing it can score too as evidenced by last week's "pick six"by Pro Bowl CB Charles Woodson who now has scored 11 career NFL touchdowns off INTs.
Put into the mix the fact Green Bay does play its best ball away from sacred Lambeau Field (see our Spread Notes below) and this one's a daunting task for the host Atlanta Falcons who must slow down QB Rodgers here and take away a couple of his major weapons - heck, we haven't even discussed the fact that top target WR Greg Jennings has 18 catches worth 220 yards in his last two combined games against the Falcs!
If the six-point home dog Falcons are gonna snatch up this upset win, than the two-headed wide-out monster of WR Roddy White and Julio Jones (a combined 50 receptions but only one touchdown) must make a handful of 25-yard-or-longer plays here. Is it bombs away time here for QB Matt Ryan (6 TDs and 4 INTs). And, suffice to say, bullish RB Michael Turner has to move the chains and that's not always been his strength in this current campaign.
Spread Notes - Green Bay sports a nifty 8-3 ATS (against the spread) away log dating back to the middle of last season and that includes the rollicking 48-21 NFC Divisional Playoff win at 1 ½-point fav Atlanta. Note the Packers are a collective 14-4 versus the vig overall since midway of the 2010 season (that's a sparkling .778 winning rate) and that includes three-of-four spread "W's"thus far this season. Meanwhile, Atlanta's failed to cover three of its first four games this year but note the Falcons are a healthy 17-9 ATS at home during the Mike Smith Era that started back in 2008.
The Jim Hurley Network is also set with a big play on the daytime card, with our Situation Cinch Play. Make it a winning Sunday, both day and night with the Hurley Network.
THE MLB PLAYOFFS - THE NLCS PREVIEW
ST. LOUIS (90-72, 3-2 NLDS) vs. MILWAUKEE (96-66, 3-2 NLDS)
It's an all-National League Central showdown for the right to get to this year's World Series - the third time that's happened since 2005 (see St. Louis versus Houston back-to-back in the mid-2000s - and it's the sixth time in the last dozen years that the Redbirds comprise one-half of the NLCS ... still think manager Tony LaRussa is "overrated"?
The Cards hop right into this best-of-seven series knowing ace RHP Chris Carpenter - the 1-0 series-clinching winner against Roy Halladay and the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night past - won't be able to go until Game 3 back in St. Loo and so it's imperative that the Cards get a split without Carpenter in Games 1 and 2 in Milwaukee and so that could mean cobbling together innings from the bullpen in one of these first two games.
Milwaukee has that all-important home-field advantage here - the Brewers won all three games at Miller Park in the just-completed National League Division Series versus gritty Arizona and wound up an MLB-best 57-24 at home in regular-season action - but can they really count on LF Ryan Braun batting at/near .800 in his home games this series?
Gut feeling is one major key for the Brewers will be how does Milwaukee 1B Prince Fielder fare in those eighth- and ninth-inning showdowns against Cardinals LHP Marc Rzepczynski who will be worth his weight in gold should he be able to retire Fielder two or three times in this series. And, on the flip side, can Milwaukee's eighth-inning reliever Francisco Rodriguez avoid getting himself into major trouble - he worked in and out of it in Game 5 against the D-Backs but that was tough on everyone's heart!
NOTE: Get our Monday Night Football Preview - that's Chicago at Detroit - plus all the key College Football weekend re-caps in the next Jim Sez.
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