Atlanta Falcons (1-4) at Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1)
Going into the season, I thought the Falcons had a good chance to be significantly improved in 2019, after their 2018 season was derailed by injuries to key players like running back Devonta Freeman, linebacker Deion Jones, and safeties Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal, who all missed close to the whole season last season. Instead, the Falcons have gotten off to a horrible 1-4 start and rank 28th in the NFL with a -50 point differential, only ahead of the four winless teams.
Turnovers were the problem to start the season, but in the past two weeks they’ve been outscored by a combined 35 points against the Titans and Texans in games in which they had a combined -1 turnover margin. Devonta Freeman and Ricardo Allen have not returned to form after their injuries. Keanu Neal is out for the season again. Damontee Kazee, who was a solid starting safety last year in the absence of Neal and Allen, has struggled mightily in his new spot at cornerback.
Deion Jones has been healthy and has played well, but, while the Falcons’ defense was not bad down the stretch with him healthy last year, that has not carried over into 2019. A defense that allowed a 41.13% first down rate in 2018 (31st in the NFL) and a 36.36% first down rate in the games in which Jones was healthy has allowed a ridiculous 43.73% first down rate allowed in 2019, which would be the worst in the NFL if the Dolphins weren’t a historically bad team. Their offense actually ranks 5th in first down rate at 40.00%, despite the lack of a running game, but even still the Falcons rank 27th as a team in first down rate differential. Making matters worse on defense, they will be without top cornerback Desmond Trufant in this game due to injury.
The Cardinals aren’t a great team, ranking 28th in first down rate differential and 27th in my roster rankings, but I still have this line calculated at even, so the Cardinals have a good chance to win this game outright at home. We aren’t getting great line value with the Cardinals at +2.5, but they’re in a much better spot than the Falcons, who have to turn around and host the Rams next week. Road favorites are just 24-50 ATS since 2012 before being home underdogs, which the Falcons almost definitely will be next week. I wish we were getting the full field goal, but the Cardinals should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes and the money line is worth a bet as well.
Update: This line has moved up to a field goal in some places. The Cardinals are worth a bet at that number.
Arizona Cardinals 27 Atlanta Falcons 24 Upset Pick +135
Pick against the spread: Arizona +3