NFL Point Spread: Falcons -3
Both the Atlanta Falcons and the Chicago Bears come into this season feeling like they have something to prove. Atlanta went 13-3 and was the top seed in the NFC, but they lost in their first game of the playoffs. The Bears went 11-5 last season and won the NFC North, but very few people are picking them to be on top this year. This should be one of the NFL’s best games on opening weekend.
Matt Ryan has really grown as a quarterback in his short tenure in the league. Ryan threw 28 touchdowns and just nine interceptions a year ago. He had a quarterback rating of 91 on the season. Roddy White proved to be one of the league’s best receiver last year, and Ryan has to be excited to have another huge weapon this year with Julio Jones joining the team. Tony Gonzalez is still one of the better tight ends in the NFL, and he does a great job running routes in the middle of the field. Michael Turner should have another solid year, and I really like that the Falcons brought in Jacquizz Rodgers as a change of pace back.
The Atlanta defense was steady last year, but they need to find a way to pressure the quarterback a little more. Mike Smith is a defensive coach first, and this offseason he has been working with this defense to implement a more aggressive style. Look for this defense to bring more blitzes and try to force mistakes from the opposition.
The Chicago Bears season ended at the hands of Green Bay in the conference title game last year. Jay Cutler’s toughness was questioned at the end of last season, and you have to wonder how he’ll respond this year. Cutler has shown flashes of brilliance, but he has been lacking the consistency necessary to be a top quarterback in the NFL. The addition of Marion Barber could prove to be a great move. Matt Forte and Barber should be a nice tailback tandem. The Bears allowed 52 sacks last year, which was the most in the NFL. The offensive line needs to do better this season.
The Bears defense has been the reason they have been such a solid team the last few years. Lance Briggs wants out of Chicago, but he says that won’t affect his play on the field. Julius Peppers is still great at putting pressure on quarterbacks, but Briggs and Urlacher aren’t the same forces they once were at linebacker spot. The secondary is a bit of a question mark. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bears defense take a small step back this season.
The under is 7-0 in the Bears last 7 games on Week One of the season. The under is 6-1 in the Falcons last 7 games on Week One. The under is 6-0 in the last 6 meetings between these two.
Free NFL Pick: Falcons/Bears Under 40.5
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