The Teaser: Pair Atlanta and New Orleans
Game 1: Atlanta vs. Chicago
The Initial Line:
Atlanta -7.5 away vs. Chicago
Add 7 points to Atlanta’s line
The Final Line:
Atlanta had their hopes at a first Super Bowl crushed after they blew a 28-3 3rd quarter lead to lose to New England in OT. MVP Matt Ryan couldn’t score any points after that 3rd quarter, despite having the highest scoring offense by a wide margin. Chicago was in complete rebuilding mode after a 3-13 season and last place finish in the NFC North. Between the Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Barkley QB carousel there wasn’t much stability on the offensive side of the ball, besides the emergence of rookie RB Jordan Howard who gained more than 1,300 rush yards.
Although Atlanta did lose their offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco, they brought back all of the pieces of that prolific offensive attack including the lethal RB tandem of Freeman and Coleman. They struggled a bit on defense, but will have a healthy Desmond Trufant who will help their secondary. They also added a promising pass rusher in the first round of the draft in Takkarist McKinley, who should help solidify their defensive front along with newcomer Dontari Poe. Chicago is still in rebuilding mode, and signed Mike Glennon to take over at QB with Mitchell Trubisky drafted for the future. The loss of Alshon Jeffrey at WR will leave them looking for new options in a young core. On the defensive side of the ball, they also didn’t make many moves for a team that had an NFL low 11 takeaways in 2016. Atlanta should handle this game easily, but given that it’s the season opener on the road in a hostile Chicago environment I’ll err on the side of caution here to say Chicago could somehow keep it within a score. However, they will not achieve a home victory over a hungry Atlanta team with added motivation, so take them to win the game.
Game 2: New Orleans vs. Minnesota
The Initial Line:
New Orleans +3.5 away vs. Minnesota
Add 7 points to New Orlean’s line
The Final Line:
New Orleans +10.5
New Orleans saw their great offensive showing in 2016 often overshadowed by their historically poor defense in 2016, which led to their 7-9 record. Minnesota started off the 2016 campaign hot out of the gate at 5-0, but quickly tailed off down the stretch and finished with an 8-8 showing and 3rd in the NFC North division. Drew Brees continues to pile up huge numbers on the way to the Hall of Fame, as he once again eclipsed 5,000 passing yards in a season. Sam Bradford also had a successful first season for Minnesota, as he ended the year with 71.6% completions which was the highest ever in the NFL.
Many of the headlines in this opener may revolve around Adrian Peterson and his return to Minnesota after an illustrious career there. After 10 seasons with over 11,500 rushing yards, the 32 year old RB will look to extend his career and show why he can still dominate the league, but will have support in Mark Ingram who achieved an 1,000 yard season in 2016. Minnesota will again boost an elite defense, as they ranked 3rd in the NFL in yards allowed in 2016 and didn’t lose many weapons. Even though they lost Peterson, they did add Latavius Murray to help fill the void. This will be a showdown between an elite defense in Minnesota vs an elite offense in New Orleans. I think both teams could have an opportunity to win here, but I don’t see a blowout by either side. Therefore, the safe bet is to take New Orleans with some extra points, so grabbing them with a TD and FG cushion seems like a lock with Brees at the helm.