Atlanta Falcons (7-5) at Los Angeles Rams (4-8)
The Rams have been beaten badly in back-to-back games. First they couldn’t stop anything against the Saints, who scored 7 offensive touchdowns in a 49-21 victory. Then last week they couldn’t move the ball, not breaking 100 yards until a garbage time touchdown drive and totalling just 7 first downs in a 26-10 loss in New England. Their offense has been the problem all year as they rank dead last (by almost 2%) in first down rate. Overall, they rank 31st in first down rate differential on the season, despite a solid defense. Unfortunately for them, things do not get any easier the next couple of weeks, as they host the Falcons this week and then go to Seattle to face the Seahawks next week.
The Rams are 6.5 point underdogs here at home, but that’s not enough points to scare me off of Atlanta, who ranks 4th in first down rate differential. Next week, the Rams figure to be at least double digit underdogs in Seattle, which puts them in a very tough spot. Not only are teams 41-63 ATS since 2012 before being double digit underdogs, underdogs of 6 or more are 48-81 ATS since 2012 before being underdogs of 6 or more again, as it’s very tough for an inferior team to keep it close against a superior team with another tough game next on the schedule. Next week’s game is going to be the Rams’ Super Bowl, so they could easily look past the Falcons this week, especially since the game is on Thursday Night.
The Falcons, meanwhile, host the lowly 49ers next week. Favorites of 6 or more are 93-52 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6 or more again, including 33-7 ATS when their opponent will be underdogs of 6 or more again in their next game. With no real distractions on the horizon, the Falcons should be able to steamroll an inferior Rams team. The only thing preventing this from being a bigger play is Julio Jones’ uncertain status with injury. The Falcons have said they expect him to play despite a toe injury, but he hasn’t practiced all week so nothing is certain. Even if he plays, he could be nothing more than a decoy. I think it’s still worth a bet on the Falcons as long as the line is under a touchdown though.
Atlanta Falcons 24 Los Angeles Rams 13
Pick against the spread: Atlanta -6.5