Arizona Cardinals (4-5) at Atlanta Falcons (8-1)
The Falcons are 9.5 point favorites here at home, but they’ve struggled to blow teams out this year, winning 5 of their 8 games by a touchdown or less, including 4 against teams who, like the Cardinals, currently have a sub .500 record. 4 of those 5 close games were at home and they represent all 4 of the Falcons’ home games this season.
Arizona is in a couple of good spots. They’re dogs before being favorites, a situation teams are 95-50 ATS in since 2011. They are double digit dogs (I know they’re technically not, but close enough, it’s -10 in some places) before being favorites, a situation teams are 46-27 ATS in since 2002, including 16-4 ATS as non-divisional double digit dogs before being divisional favorites (they host St. Louis next week). They’re also coming off a bye having lost 5 or more in a row, a situation teams are 20-8 ATS in since 1989.
We’re also getting line value with the Cardinals. Using the yards per play differential method, we get a real line of Atlanta -5.5 and using the rate of sustaining drives differential metric, we get a real line of -10, which averages out to be a significantly smaller line than this is (2 points is pretty significant). All this being said, I like the Falcons this week for two reasons.
The first is that I really don’t like the way the Cardinals are going right now. They’ve lost 5 in a row and John Skelton, who will start once again this week, is, believe it or not, actually a downgrade over Kevin Kolb. Both of their top-2 backs are hurt and their offensive line is a complete joke and on pace to break Houston’s record of 78 sacks allowed set in 2002, their first season in existence.
Second, since Mike Smith took over in 2008, this team has been excellent at rebounding off a loss. Good teams with good coaches tend to do this and Mike Smith might do it better than anyone (I guarantee you if his name were anything other than Mike Smith, he’d be known as one of the top Head Coaches in the NFL). He is 17-3 ATS off a loss, including 6-0 ATS off an upset loss.
The Falcons haven’t blown a bunch of teams out this year, but they certainly have the personnel and capability to do so. I think they get that blowout win this week in a statement game for a team that always bounces back well off a loss and that needs to shut a few people up by blowing out a team that should blow out. They’re also great outside of the division at home as Matt Ryan is 16-6 ATS as non-divisional home favorites, though just 5-3 ATS as touchdown favorites and 1-1 ATS as double digit favorites. I like the Falcons for a small play. I hate laying this many points in general, and there is a lot of conflicting stuff in this one, but the Falcons seem due for a statement home win against a crappy opponent.
Public lean: Atlanta (70% range)
Sharps lean: ARZ 8 ATL 2
Final update: One of the toughest games this week as there’s stuff going on for both sides. Injuries will play a key role as well as Julio Jones is a game time decision and both Sean Weatherspoon and Calais Campbell, arguably each team’s best defensive player, are not expected to play. I’m sticking with my original pick, but it would be very low in any confidence pool and a zero unit pick if I did them.
Atlanta Falcons 31 Arizona Cardinals 12
Pick against spread: Atlanta -9.5 (-110) 1 unit