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

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints: 2022 Week 15 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (5-8) at New Orleans Saints (4-9)

The Falcons have overachieved through the first 13 games of the season, especially on offense, where they rank 9th in schedule adjusted efficiency, but they are switching quarterbacks from capable veteran Marcus Mariota to unproven rookie Desmond Ritter, to evaluate the young quarterback in what is largely a lost season even with a solid offense. Mariota wasn’t playing at that high of a level, but it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see the Falcons’ offense decline significantly with Ritter in the lineup, which would expose the problems on the rest of this team in a big way.

The Saints, meanwhile, are just 4-9, but their biggest problem has been the turnover margin (-12, 2nd worst in the league), which is not predictive week-to-week, and they rank 13th in schedule adjusted efficiency, which is much more predictive week-to-week. They’ve also been getting significantly healthier in recent weeks and are now as healthy as they’ve been almost all season coming out of their bye week, after being one of the most injury plagued teams in the league thus far this season.

In total, feature back Alvin Kamara (2 games missed), starting wide receivers Jarvis Landry (5 games missed) and Chris Olave (1 game missed), starting offensive linemen Andrus Peat (4 games missed) and James Hurst (1 game missed), stud edge defenders Cameron Jordan (1 game missed) and Marcus Davenport (2 games missed), and talented safety Marcus Maye (4 games missed) have all missed time this season and have since returned, while talented linebacker Pete Werner (4 games missed), talented center Erik McCoy (4 games missed), and top cornerback Marshon Lattimore (8 games missed) could also return this week.

This line favors the Saints by 4 points at home, but that’s not high enough, with the Saints healthy and the Falcons breaking in a raw rookie quarterback. My calculated line has the Saints favored by 6 and that could increase depending on which injured Saints are able to play. I’m leaving this as a low confidence pick for now, but I could easily end up making an update to this pick before gametime, depending on who actually ends up being active and where this line ultimately settles.

Update: Lattimore remains out, but Werner and McCoy will play, so there is enough here for the Saints to be worth betting at -4.

New Orleans Saints 24 Atlanta Falcons 17

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -4

Confidence: Medium

Pittsburgh Steelers at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 13 NFL Pick

Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7) at Atlanta Falcons (5-7)

I think both of these teams are underrated, so I’m disappointed they’re playing each other, as there isn’t an obvious side to pick in this one. The Steelers are just 4-7, but they’ve arguably faced the toughest schedule in the league, with eight of their eleven games being against teams that are currently .500 or better, with two of the exceptions being the Browns and Saints, who are both better than their records would indicate. In terms of schedule adjusted efficiency, the Steelers rank 18th, about one point below average, and that’s despite the fact that they have been without their top defender TJ Watt for much of the season. He returned a few weeks ago, giving them a big boost on that side of the ball.

The Falcons, meanwhile, actually rank 13th in schedule adjusted efficiency, about one point above average and two points ahead of the Steelers. My roster rankings suggest the Falcons have overperformed their talent level, but they still are only about a point behind the Steelers in my roster rankings. My calculated line gives the home team Falcons a slightly better chance to win this game and, as a result, cover this even spread than the Steelers, but only barely, so this is one of my lowest confidence picks.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Pick against the spread: Atlanta PK

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Washington Commanders: 2022 Week 12 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (5-6) at Washington Commanders (6-5)

A week ago on the early line, the Commanders were favored by three points at home over the Falcons, but this line has since shifted to four, a significant shift, as about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. Normally significant line movements like that tend to be an overreaction to a single week of play and I think that’s the case here, as my calculated line is still at Washington -3. When a home team is favored by exactly a field goal, that usually means they are slightly, but not significantly better than their opponents and I think that’s the case here, whereas a four point line would only be justified if the Commanders were significantly better.

The Falcons are a game behind the Commanders in the standings, but they actually have a slight edge in schedule adjusted efficiency, ranking 11th, while the Commanders rank 17th. My roster rankings have the Commanders as the better team, as the Falcons have largely overachieved their talent level this season, while the Commanders are significantly healthier now than they were earlier in the year and have played better since turning to Taylor Heinicke under center, but, either way, these two teams are closer together than this line suggests. There isn’t quite enough here for the Falcons to be worth betting, but the most likely outcome of this game is the Commanders winning by a field goal, so the Falcons at +4 should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Washington Commanders 27 Atlanta Falcons 24

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +4

Confidence: Low

Chicago Bears at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 11 NFL Pick

Chicago Bears (3-7) at Atlanta Falcons (4-6)

A week ago on the early line, the Falcons were 5-point favorites, but this line has since shrunk to favor the Falcons by 3, a significant line movement, considering about 1 in 5 games are decided by 3-4 points exactly. That is likely due to the Falcons losing to the Panthers, but the Falcons split the yards per play and first down rate battle in that game, as the Bears did in their loss to the Lions, so I don’t think those results warrant this line movement. I normally like to go against significant week-to-week line movements like that and my calculated line actually has the Falcons favored by 7 points, as the Falcons have a 5.5-point edge over the Bears in schedule adjusted efficiency and a 5-point edge in my roster rankings. 

The Bears have been better on offense in recent weeks, but their defense has been horrendous since trading away Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, two of their best defensive players. The Falcons are bettable as mere 3-point home favorites and, while this is a small bet for now, I would increase this to a high confidence pick if top cornerback AJ Terrell returns from injury for the Falcons, a strong possibility and something that would be a big boost after a 3-game absence, and/or if this line drops down to 2.5, which also seems like a possibility, with the public all over the Bears for some reason.

Update: -2.5s are showing up Sunday morning, so I am going to increase this bet.

Atlanta Falcons 31 Chicago Bears 24

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -2.5

Confidence: High

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers: 2022 Week 10 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (4-5) at Carolina Panthers (2-7)

Two weeks ago, the Panthers were 4-point underdogs in Atlanta and covered the spread in a close loss by a field goal in overtime. Given that, it’s surprising to see the Panthers as home underdogs of a full field goal in this rematch. Normally teams are given 1-2 points for homefield advantage, which would put this line at about Atlanta -1, based on Atlanta being -4 at home a couple weeks ago. Atlanta -1 was actually the line for this game on the early line last week, but it has since shifted all the way up to three.

The reason for that shift and for the line being where it is now is that the Panthers were blown out in Cincinnati last week, but I think the line movement is an overreaction, especially since the Bengals also beat the Falcons easily a few weeks ago and now have four double digit victories on the season. My calculated line is still at Atlanta -1.5, so we’re getting some line value with the Panthers, particularly when you consider that 1 in 6 games are decided by a field goal exactly. There isn’t enough here for the Panthers to be worth betting, but they should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes.

Atlanta Falcons 26 Carolina Panthers 24

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3

Confidence: Low

Los Angeles Chargers at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 9 NFL Pick

Los Angeles Chargers (4-3) at Atlanta Falcons (4-4)

Coming into the season, I thought the Chargers were one of the most talented teams in the league, but they have been arguably the most injury affected team in the league since then, with several key players missing extended time. While center Corey Linsley has returned, the Chargers will be without stud left tackle Rashawn Slater, their two talented wide receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Wallace, stud edge defender Joey Bosa, and expected #1 cornerback JC Jackson, among other lesser injuries.

The Chargers still have a 4-3 record, but their -25 point differential is significantly worse than their record and they are even worse in schedule adjusted efficiency, ranking 29th, 4.5 points below average. Missing the players they are currently missing, my roster rankings have them around the same spot, about four points below average. Despite that, the Chargers are favored by a full field goal on the road in Atlanta against a decent Falcons team. 

The Falcons’ defense has struggled mightily this season, ranking 31st in schedule adjusted efficiency, and they are currently missing their top two cornerbacks Casey Hayward and AJ Terrell, but their offense ranks 4th in schedule adjusted efficiency and that is the more predictive side of the ball. The Falcons aren’t quite as good in my roster rankings, about a half point above average on offense and two points below average overall, but my calculated line still has them as 6-point home favorites over this overrated Chargers team, so we’re getting great line value with them as full field goal favorites. Atlanta +3 is my top pick this week and the money line is a great value as well.

Atlanta Falcons 26 Los Angeles Chargers 20 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +3

Confidence: Pick of the Week

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 8 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (2-5) at Atlanta Falcons (3-4)

The Panthers pulled the massive upset at home against the Buccaneers last week as 13-point home underdogs, but teams tend to have a hard time following up a big home upset win, covering at a 41.9% rate all-time after a home upset win as underdogs of 5 points or more. The Panthers effectively won their Super Bowl last week and likely will now have a hard time bringing their best effort again for this game against the Falcons this week, now on the road in Atlanta. The Panthers also still rank just 31st in the league in schedule adjusted efficiency, even with last week’s upset win taken into account, so they are overvalued as mere 4-point underdogs against a more competitive Falcons team.

The Falcons lost last week by double digits in Cincinnati, which, along with the Panthers’ upset victory, caused this line to shift from originally favoring the Falcons by 6.5, but the Panthers’ win was likely more of a fluke than anything, while the Falcons still rank 9th in schedule adjusted overall efficiency, about nine points better than the Panthers. The Falcons’ 4th ranked offense in terms of schedule adjusted efficiency probably won’t perform at that level all season, while their 29th ranked defense is now missing it’s two best cornerbacks due to injury, but their defensive problems won’t be as big of a deal against the Panthers’ dead last ranked offense and, overall, my calculated line still favors the Falcons by 6, before taking into account that they are in a better spot than the Panthers. This isn’t a big play, but the Falcons are bettable this week.

Atlanta Falcons 24 Carolina Panthers 16

Pick against the spread: Atlanta -4

Confidence: Medium

Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals: 2022 Week 7 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (3-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (3-3)

The Falcons have been one of the most surprising teams in the league this season. Entering the season clearly in the beginning phases of a rebuild, with one of the least talented rosters in the league on paper, the Falcons have started 3-3 and their performance has been no fluke. Their defense has been mediocre, ranking 24th in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, but their offense has statistically been one of the best in the league, ranking 5th in both first down rate and schedule adjusted efficiency, and offensive performance tends to be much more consistent week-to-week than defensive performance.

This week, the Falcons visit a Bengals team that is well above average, despite a 3-3 record, with all three of their losses coming by three points or fewer and a +23 point differential that is 7th best in the NFL, but the Falcons are still about even with the Bengals in overall schedule adjusted efficiency. My roster rankings don’t show the Falcons as favorably, as they’ve significantly overachieved compared to their talent level and are missing talented cornerback Casey Hayward this week, after being one of the healthiest teams in the league through the first few weeks of the season, but the Bengals still only have a 3-point edge in my roster rankings.

The Bengals are at home in this game, but these teams are closer than this 6.5-point line suggests, with my calculated line falling at Cincinnati -4.5. That’s not enough line value for the Falcons to be worth betting, but I would reconsider if this line jumped up to a full touchdown and the Falcons should be the right side for pick ‘em purposes. The Falcons haven’t lost by more than 6 points all season and, while it wouldn’t surprise me if they suffered their biggest margin of defeat thus far in Cincinnati against a good Bengals team this week, I would expect this to be a relatively close game.

Cincinnati Bengals 27 Atlanta Falcons 22

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +6.5

Confidence: Low

San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 6 NFL Pick

San Francisco 49ers (3-2) at Atlanta Falcons (2-3)

The 49ers won in a blowout as 6.5-point road favorites in Carolina last week, but it was surprising to see them still be 4.5-point road favorites in this game in Atlanta this week. The Falcons are a much more competent and better coached team than the Panthers and the 49ers’ still have concerns on offense that will show up in a tougher matchup. Even after last week’s performance in Carolina, the 49ers rank 21st in both first down rate and schedule adjusted efficiency and they also rank below average in my roster rankings on offense.

The 49ers still have Jimmy Garoppolo, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle, but their running back group is depleted by injury and their offensive line lost a trio of starters this off-season and now is without Trent Williams, who will be filled in for this week by third stringer Jaylon Moore, after backup Colton McKivitz played admirably in their first game without Williams two weeks ago, before suffering an injury of his own. The 49ers have a strong defense, ranking 3rd in schedule adjusted efficiency, but they’ve struggled on special teams as well and, with offensive performance being significantly more predictive than defensive performance, the 49ers rank just 14th in overall efficiency, just a half point above average, while being a half point below average in my roster rankings, due to injuries. 

Given that, this line is way too high on the road against a competent Falcons team that has been competitive in all of their games, despite an above average schedule. My calculated line has the Falcons favored by 1.5 points, so we’re getting great line value with them at +4.5. The 49ers are also in a tough spot, with a bigger game on deck against the Chiefs that could easily be a distraction and make this a trap game. This is my favorite pick this week and the money line is worth a bet as well.

Atlanta Falcons 17 San Francisco 49ers 16 Upset Pick +185

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +4.5

Confidence: Pick of the Week