Atlanta Falcons at Baltimore Ravens: 2022 Week 16 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at Baltimore Ravens (9-5)

The Falcons are 5-9, but they’ve been impressive on offense this season, ranking 7th in schedule adjusted efficiency, with their defense being their big problem, ranking 29th in schedule adjusted efficiency. Offensive performance tends to be significantly more consistent week-to-week than defensive performance, so teams with strong offensive numbers and poor defensive numbers tend to do better going forward than teams that are the opposite. However, the Falcons made the decision to bench veteran quarterback Marcus Mariota for rookie Desmond Ridder a couple weeks ago, which makes sense to do in the long-term, as they want to evaluate a potential long-term starter, but, in the short-term, it will likely have the effect of hurting their offensive performance, which will further expose their defense. 

The Falcons only lost by three in New Orleans in their first game with Ridder under center last week, but they lost the first down rate battle by 1.69 and the yards per play battle by 1.33%, which are significantly more predictive than the final score. Ridder himself particularly struggled last week, throwing for just 97 yards on 26 attempts (3.73 YPA, as opposed to the 7.40 YPA that Mariota averaged this season), with the Falcons’ running game being the one to keep the team competitive last week (5.92 YPC on 39 carries), which is a concern because passing game performance tends to be significantly more predictive than running game performance. It’s possible Ridder will be better in his second start this week, but their passing game will almost definitely be worse going forward with Ridder under center rather than Mariota, who has since gone on injured reserve with a knee injury.

All that being said, it’s surprising to see the Falcons as underdogs of 6.5 points on the road in Baltimore, facing a Ravens team that is starting backup quarterback Tyler Huntley in place of injured star quarterback Lamar Jackson. Huntley has led the Ravens to just 26 offensive points in about 2.5 games since taking over for Jackson, so it would be hard to take them as big favorites with any sort of confidence. In fact, my calculated line is just Baltimore -5, so we’re actually getting a little bit of line value with the Falcons, even with the underwhelming and unproven Ridder under center. There’s not enough here for the Falcons to be bettable, but they should be the right side in what figures to be a low scoring game between two run-first offenses that have significant passing game problems.

Baltimore Ravens 19 Atlanta Falcons 14

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +6.5

Confidence: Low

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