St. Louis Rams (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (0-1)
The Falcons lost last week in New Orleans, but now they return home where it’s always been a different story for the Falcons under Matt Ryan. Matt Ryan is 33-7 at home in his career and 24-15 ATS and 21-12 ATS as home favorites. Matt Ryan is also great off a loss, going 17-4 ATS in his career off of a loss. Given that, it’s kind of absurd this line is only -6.
I agree that the Falcons won’t have nearly as good of a record as last season. The Falcons’ 13 wins last year were done largely with smoke and mirrors and in a way that won’t be sustainable into 2013. 7 of those 13 wins came by a touchdown or less as they went 7-2 in games decided by a touchdown or less, something that tends to even out in the long run. It’s also unlikely that the Falcons recover 64.3% of fumbles that hit the ground this season. The Falcons also face a tougher schedule in 2013. In 2012, the Falcons faced just 2 playoff teams in the regular season. That’ll be impossible this year playing a first place schedule in the loaded NFC.
The Falcons also lost a lot this off-season. They return just 2 starters in their original spot on an offensive line whose biggest strength was continuity, with the loss of right tackle Tyson Clabo being the biggest. They downgrade from John Abraham to Osi Umenyiora and also lost defensive tackle Vance Walker. The only real addition was the upgrade from the washed up Michael Turner to the almost washed up Steven Jackson at running back. Their week 1 performance supports that projection, but this line is still absurdly low.
The Rams might be just as overrated as the Falcons, possibly more because the odds makers seem to know that the Falcons are overrated. The Rams and Cardinals are very equal teams. The field goal game they played last week just supports that. Like the Cardinals, the Rams will probably finish with 6-7 wins. They went 7-8-1 last season, but I don’t think they match that, even with their increase in talent level.
If they didn’t add all they added this off-season, they would have been even worse. Teams that have big win improvements like the Rams did last season usually regress about half of that improvement the following season. There are unsustainable things about the Rams’ 2012 season. They were 6th in the league in adjusted games lost, meaning they had significantly fewer injuries than the league average. This was a season after they ranked dead last in that category in 2011. They also exceeded their Pythagorean Expectations by a whole win (assuming a half win for the tie) as they were outscored by 49 points on the season and had a Pythagorean Expectation of 6.5 wins, 23rd in the NFL.
The Rams do have talent, but they’re going to have a hard time competing in the NFC. I have a hard time seeing them going into Atlanta and being competitive, but it’s not a high confidence play because of how often the Falcons have been playing close games over the past year or so. Including playoffs, 8 of their 14 wins last season were by a touchdown or less. That scares me, even with the line only at -6. I’d be more confident at -5.5 The Falcons should be the right side though.
Atlanta Falcons 27 St. Louis Rams 19
Pick against spread: Atlanta -6