Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons: 2014 Week 13 NFL Pick

Arizona Cardinals (9-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-7)

The Falcons lost at home last week, but that hasn’t been the norm for them at home in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era. They are 31-21-1 ATS at home (38-15 straight up) since those two came in back in 2008, as long as Matt Ryan is healthy, including 7-3 ATS as home underdogs, as they are here. The fact that they lost last week actually makes it more likely that they cover this week as they’re very good off of a loss in the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith era. They are 26-14 ATS off of a loss since 2008, including 17-9 ATS at home and 5-1 ATS as home underdogs.

We’re also getting line value with the Falcons as field goal underdogs here, even before we get into how good they’ve been at home. The Cardinals are not as good as their 9-2 record, moving the chains at a 72.14% rate, as opposed to 69.33% for their opponents, a differential of 2.81% that ranks just 11th. They’ve been way too reliant on a +12 turnover margin this season, powered by a 65.00% rate of recovering fumbles (2nd in the NFL), a 2-0 record in games decided by a touchdown or less, and a +3 return touchdown margin. Atlanta, meanwhile, ranks 20th, moving the chains at a 73.56% rate, as opposed to 75.27% for their opponents, a differential of 1.71%.

Arizona is also really missing Carson Palmer, their starting quarterback who is out for the season with a torn ACL.  Palmer completed 62.9% of his passes for an average of 7.26 YPA, 11 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while backup Drew Stanton has completed 53.6% of his passes for an average of 7.08 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. They’ve moved the chains at a 69.47% rate in games that Drew Stanton started and a 73.96% rate in games started by Carson Palmer. They have no business being field goal favorites. They were exposed last week in Seattle and I think they will continue to be exposed this week in Arizona. They’ll be looking to get an easy win off of a very disappointing loss and I think they could overlook an Atlanta team that, as bad as their record is, is very tough at home generally.

The only reason this isn’t a bigger play on the Falcons is because they have to go to Green Bay next week. Teams are 99-126 ATS since 2002 as non-divisional home underdogs before being non-divisional road underdogs, while teams are 42-86 ATS since 2010 before being double digit underdogs, which the Falcons undoubtedly will be next week. Still, there’s enough stuff here for me to feel confident grabbing the field goal with the Falcons, especially with the public all over Arizona.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Arizona Cardinals 23 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3

Confidence: Medium

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