Atlanta Falcons (6-2) at San Francisco 49ers (2-6)
The Falcons have been exposed a little bit in recent weeks. They needed overtime to beat the Redskins in Atlanta, lost in New Orleans, only won by a field goal in Tennessee, who was starting a backup quarterback, and then lost at home in overtime to the Buccaneers last week. On the season, they have just 2 wins by more than 4 points and they haven’t played a single team with a winning record. Despite that, they’re favored by 7.5 points here on the road in San Francisco.
This line was 4 a week ago and typically I love fading significant line movements like this because they tend to be overreactions to single weeks. However, despite the fact that the Falcons are not as good as their record, I actually think this line is too low, if anything. The 49ers are in complete disarray right now. Following a brutal off-season in which they lost about half of their starters, they rank dead last in rate of moving the chains differential by a wide margin. Starting wide receiver Anquan Boldin is out for this one, as is starting running back Carlos Hyde. The 49ers are also without top backup running backs Reggie Bush and Mike Davis with injury, so they’ll be going with a committee of Kendall Gaskins, their 4th string running back, and free agent acquisitions Shaun Draughn and Pierre Thomas, who have been with the team for less than a week.
On top of that, they’ve benched starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick for Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick certainly wasn’t playing well at all, but Gabbert has been one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the league whenever he’s been counted on to play in his 5 year NFL career, completing 53.2% of his passes for an average of 5.61 YPA, 23 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions. As bad as Kaepernick has been, Gabbert is a clear downgrade and, combining that with the injuries, this line movement is perfectly legitimate. The Falcons, meanwhile, rank 6th in rate of moving the chains differential. That’s inflated by their week schedule, but I’d still take them here in San Francisco as up to 10 point favorites.
They’re also in a good spot going into a bye. Good teams tend to take care of business going into a bye and win big as big favorites. Home favorites of 6+ going into the bye are 59-20 ATS since 2002. The Cardinals, unfortunately, are not at home for this one, but 3+ point road favorites are still 40-26 ATS going into a bye, for the same reason. It’s not as powerful of a trend as the other one, but the logic behind both is the same. Matt Ryan is also 25-13 ATS off of a loss in his career. I can’t bring myself to put money on the Falcons as long as the line is over a touchdown, especially with the public is all over the Falcons, but they should win this one pretty easily.
Atlanta Falcons 24 San Francisco 49ers 13
Pick against the spread: Atlanta -7.5