Atlanta Falcons (8-0) at New Orleans Saints (3-5)
The Falcons are an undefeated 8-0, but they have not played a tough schedule (it doesn’t really get harder) and they’ve won 5 of their 8 games by a touchdown or less, including 4 at home. Their +77 points differential is just 6th in the NFL. Typically, records in touchdown games even out over time. Teams that win a game by a touchdown or less win their following game 52% of the time if that game is also decided by a touchdown or less.
They’ve beaten everyone on their schedule and they’ve been able to eke out victories, but at the end of the day, if I’m an AFC team, I’m way more scared of the Bears than the Falcons. I don’t like the Falcons to go 16-0 either even against a week schedule. At least one of these inferior teams that they keep barely beaten will trip them up one of these weeks. It could easily be the Saints in New Orleans this Sunday.
When are we ever going to see Drew Brees as a home dog again? Well, it’s actually happened 5 times before this week since he joined the Saints in 2006. The Saints covered 4 of those 5 instances. Meanwhile, dogs before being favorites are 89-50 ATS since 2011. The Saints go to Oakland next weekend. Home dogs before being road favorites, like the Saints will be next week, are 52-31 ATS since 2002.
That makes sense. If you’re good enough to be road favorites in the following week, why are you home dogs? Those teams are extra focused too with an easy game next on their schedule. That trend becomes stronger when the team is divisional home dogs before being non-divisional road favorites. Going back to 1989 to get a bigger sample size, teams are 29-14 ATS in that spot. They’ll be extra focused this week. This will be their Super Bowl, not just because it’s Atlanta, but because their season is over with a loss, while they don’t care about non-conference Oakland next week.
This game will mean a lot for the Falcons too. However, small road favorites (less than 3) are 3-11 ATS after 5 or more straight wins. Typically if a team has been playing this well lately and they’re still not big road favorites, there’s a good reason for that. If we look at the metrics for calculating real line, we see that the yards per play differential method gives us a real line of -1 and the rate of sustaining drives differential method gives us a real line of -6.
Average those two out and you get -3.5 and, all of a sudden, this small line makes more sense, especially since you consider the Falcons will once again be without top linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. Without him last week, they allowed 377 yards to the Cowboys 24 yards over their season average going into last week and their 4th worst total allowed of the season. The Cowboys imploded in the red zone, which is why they got just 13 points, but the Saints are much better in the red zone. They score on 72% of their red zone trips, best in the NFL.
The Falcons have also been had a bunch of “too good to be true” lines in their games this year that actually made sense when you looked at the metrics, -7.5 for Carolina, -9 for Oakland, +2.5 in Philadelphia, -3 in Washington, -4 for Dallas, etc. That’s not done on purpose. The odds makers know they’re overrated. The public seems to be falling for the trap as most of the action is on the Saints. This week especially, that’s a bad thing.
As some of you may know, the public killed the odds makers in unprecedented fashion last week, going 12-2 and winning every heavy lean. The odds makers aren’t going broke or anything. They killed the public for the first 8 weeks of the season and are still up on the year, but given that, I would be very nervous to bet on a heavy public lean this week because the odds makers, regardless of whether or not you believe in conspiracy theories, always have a way of bouncing back. I’ve bet against the Falcons in the last 2 weeks and lost, but I’m doing it again this week. They can’t keep this up every week. One of these inferior teams will knock them off and there’s a lot of stuff going against them this week.
Public lean: Atlanta (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if New Orleans covers)
Sharps lean: NO 12 ATL 9
Final update: No change.
New Orleans Saints 31 Atlanta Falcons 27 Upset Pick +120
Pick against spread: New Orleans +2.5 (-110) 3 units