Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4)
The Falcons are 2-4, but they are better than their record. All 6 of their games have been close and all 4 of their losses were winnable games lost by a touchdown or less. They’ve also had a very tough schedule, as, with the exception of the winless Buccaneers last week, all of their opponents this season are 3-4 or better.
Their defense is horrific, one of the worst in the NFL, allowing opponents to move the chains at an 80% rate that is only 1/10th of a percent better than the last place Jacksonville Jaguars. However, they still have Matt Ryan, who is doing an unheralded good job leading this offense, despite injuries all over his receiving corps and struggles from his offensive line. The offense is moving the chains at a 79% rate and they get a boost this week as Steven Jackson is expected to return from injury to hopefully provide some more balance, though it’s hard to trust a 30-year-old back coming off an injury.
Still, I think they are definitely better than the Cardinals, who are moving the chains at a 71% rate and allowing opponents to move the chains at a 74% rate. The Cardinals are also in a bad spot as small home favorites before a bye. Teams who are favored by 3 or less going into a bye are just 11-30 ATS since 2002, an incredibly bad record.
This does make some sense. Small home favorites are generally comparable or slightly inferior to their opponent, which is the case here, as these two teams are 20th (Falcons) and 23rd (Cardinals) in my Power Rankings. Teams in that dynamic might just assume a victory at home going into a bye and completely overlook their opponent, which is not something you should be doing with a comparable opponent. As a result, not only do they rarely cover the spread, but they also lose the game outright more than 2 out of 3 times dating back to 2002.
The reason this isn’t a bigger play is because the Falcons are in a bad spot and could be distracted by a road game in Carolina next week. Non-divisional road dogs are 47-72 ATS before being divisional road dogs since 2002. Still, I like the Falcons’ chances of not just covering this small spread, but also winning the pulling the upset and winning game outright.
Atlanta Falcons 27 Arizona Cardinals 20 Upset Pick +120
Pick against spread: Atlanta +2.5