New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (11-2)
Every year in the Tom Coughlin era, the Giants have a 2nd half slide. Since he took over in 2004, they are 53-19 in the first 8 games of the season and 29-40 in the second 8 games of the season. This year has been no different as they started 6-2, but thanks to a 2-3 stretch, they are now 8-5, not bad, but not as good as it once looked.
It’s not all Eli Manning’s fault, but there is a noticeable dip in his 2nd half production as compared to his 1st half production. He completes 57% of his passes for an average of 6.7 YPA and 94 touchdowns to 81 interceptions in the 2nd half, as opposed to 60% of his passes for an average of 7.4 YPA and 111 touchdowns to 61 interceptions in the first half.
They blew out the Saints last week, but I wouldn’t be so sure that everything is fine, especially given their 2nd half history. They blew out the Packers 3 weeks ago and then responded by losing as favorites in Washington the next week. That loss actually pushed their record off a 2nd half win by 14 or more to 3-6 SU since 2004. Their huge win over the Saints was a little fluky too. If not for over 400 return yards, the first time a team has done that since 2000, they could have lost. After all, they were outgained and the rest of the teams’ stats looked fairly similar.
What that win did do was get people believing in them again. Most of the guys on ESPN are picking them to win this one and the Giants, as mere 1 point dogs against an 11-2 team, are a very heavy public lean. Not only do I love fading the public (especially when they back a dog and especially when they back a dog this heavily), Giants fans will tell you, it’s not a good thing that people believe in this team. That tends to be when they disappoint and they’re deadly when people are doubting them.
This week they have to go to Atlanta, who isn’t as good as their record, but they’re still a good team. It’s almost like they’ve become underrated for being overrated, that people called them overrated so many times that people don’t think they’re even a good team. They’re not 11-2 good, but I have trouble believing that they deserve to be mere 1 point home favorites against anyone. Maybe New England, but no one else. The real line is at Atlanta -1, based on the net points per drive method, which holds up to DVOA, but that still seems a little ridiculous. They’re also dogs and there have only been 2 instances in the last 23 years of a team being home dogs with 2 or fewer losses in week 13 or later.
Another big reason this line seems ridiculous to me is because of Matt Ryan’s dominance at home. He’s a ridiculous 31-5 at home in his career. At times I’ve wondered if they have become a better road team than home team this season, as all 3 of their wins by more than 10 points have come on the road, and because they’ve struggled to beat inferior teams like Arizona, Oakland, Carolina, and Dallas at home. But they are still 6-0 SU at home this season and even though they haven’t always covered the spread at home this year, Matt Ryan is still 23-12 ATS as home in his career.
If not for their 2008-2011 history, I’d be concerned that, in spite of their 6-0 home record, they’d lose this one because they haven’t really played anyone at home and they’ve barely beaten some bad teams. However, because of their history at home, I like them to win this game. They’re especially good as non-divisional home favorites, going 13-6 ATS (18-2 SU) as non-divisional home favorites in the Matt Ryan era.
Another situation they’ve been really good in since 2008, when Mike Smith and Matt Ryan came in, is off a loss. Well coached teams tend to bounce back off a loss and the Falcons are just that. In fact, if Mike Smith’s name were anything other than Mike Smith, he’d probably be talked about as one of the better Head Coaches in the NFL. He’s a ridiculous 17-4 ATS off a loss.
I’ve been down on Atlanta a lot this year, but I love them this week. The Giants are not a good 2nd half team. They’re not good when people believe in them and I love betting against such a heavy public lean. Meanwhile, this is a statement game for an Atlanta team that always gets it done at home and always bounces back well off a loss.
Public lean: Atlanta (80% range)
Atlanta Falcons 27 New York Giants 20
Pick against spread: Atlanta -1 (-110) 3 units