Atlanta Falcons (0-1) at Oakland Raiders (1-0)
The Raiders won a crazy shootout in come-from-behind fashion last week in New Orleans, winning 35-34 in a game that had a combined 993 total yards of offense. The Raiders moved the chains at an impressive 82.86% rate, just slightly better than the 79.49% rate at which the Saints’ offense moved the chains against the Raiders’ defense. Despite that, it’s unlikely that the Raiders will be in a ton of shootouts this season. It’s much more likely that the Saints will be in shootouts all season, as result of their strong offense and horrendous defense.
Coming into the season, I thought the Raiders’ offense was solid, but unspectacular and that it would be the defense that would carry this team. A good young team that added good veteran talent in free agency this off-season, the Raiders looked poised to take a big step forward this year, led by Khalil Mack and this defense. The Falcons, meanwhile, won 8 games last season, but largely as a result of an easy schedule and the 2nd best injury luck in the league. This season, they’re already without first round pick Keanu Neal with injury and, unlike many teams, do not have a key player returning from injury. The Raiders don’t either, but they added so much this off-season that it probably won’t matter.
The Falcons have a strong offense and a poor defense, so I wouldn’t rule out this game being another shootout, which is why this is not going to be a big play on Oakland as 4.5 point favorites, even though they’re significantly better than Atlanta. About 3 in 10 games are decided by 4 points or fewer and the Falcons could engineer a late touchdown drive down by like 11 to get a backdoor cover. However, Oakland seems likely to take this one pretty easily in their home opener. Atlanta isn’t any better than the Saints and the Raiders likely would beat the Saints by a touchdown or so if they played them in Oakland instead of the Superdome, which is still a tough place to play. If this line drops to 4, it’s worth putting some money on it.
Update: This line dropped to 4 Sunday Morning. This is now a medium confidence play.
Oakland Raiders 27 Atlanta Falcons 20
Pick against the spread: Oakland -4