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

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2022 Week 5 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (2-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

Last week Tom Brady lost in a spot in which he hardly ever loses, previously being 36-11 ATS off of a loss unless he is favored by more than a touchdown, but it wasn’t really his fault aside from a sack fumble, as the Buccaneers had a special teams fumble to lose the turnover battle by two, leading to a 41-31 Chiefs win, despite the Buccaneers averaging 6.37 yards per play and a 44.26% first down rate, as opposed to 5.42 and 34.17% for the Chiefs. 

The Buccaneers loss to the Packers the week before wasn’t really Brady’s fault either, as he was missing wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Julio Jones, as well as left tackle Donovan Smith who have all since returned. Brady hasn’t lost three games in a row since back in 2002, going 9-2 ATS after two straight losses since the start of the 2003 season and it seems unlikely that streak will end this week, given who his opponent is, but covering the spread is far from automatic, as he’ll 10-point home favorites against the Falcons. 

Brady hasn’t been nearly as good at covering the spread after a loss when he’s a big favorite, though we are still getting some line value with the Buccaneers. The Falcons have been a competitive team thus far and have exceeded expectations, but they’ve overachieved their talent level a little and are missing one of their best players Kyle Pitts this week, while the Buccaneers still have one of the most complete rosters in the league when their offensive line and receiving corps are relatively healthy. 

Even with last week’s performance against the Chiefs included, the Buccaneers still rank 3rd in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency and the offense seems likely to catch up at some point, after a slow start due to injury absences. I have them as 10 points better than the Falcons, giving us a calculated line of Tampa Bay -12.5, decent line value, although not enough to bet on it, unless the line happens to drop to 9.5. If that does happen, I would consider a bet on the Buccaneers, even though I don’t love betting on Brady as this big of a favorite.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 30 Atlanta Falcons 17

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -10

Confidence: Low

Cleveland Browns at Atlanta Falcons: 2022 Week 4 NFL Pick

Cleveland Browns (2-1) at Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

The Falcons were expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this season and they may still end up there, but they have exceeded expectations through the first three games of the season, particularly on offense, where they rank 2nd in first down rate and 7th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, which are among the most predictive stats week-to-week. I don’t expect them to be that good all season, but they should have a favorable matchup this week against a Browns defense that ranks 18th in both yards per play allowed and first down rate allowed, despite playing well below average offenses in all three games thus far this season. 

When adjusted for schedule, the Browns rank just 31st in defensive efficiency and it’s possible the Falcons, even if they ultimately end up being a mediocre offense, are still the toughest offense the Browns have faced thus far these season by default, having played the Panthers (32nd in offensive efficiency), Jets (31st), and Steelers (27th) in the first three weeks of the season. Making matters worse, the Browns will be without a pair of key defenders Jadeveon Clowney and Anthony Walker and could be without their most important defender, Myles Garrett, who didn’t practice all week after a car accident.

The Browns should move the ball pretty well in this game though, entering this game ranked 6th in first down rate and 3rd in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency against a Falcons defense that is mediocre at best. The Browns are on the road, but my roster rankings have them about three points better than the Falcons, even without their key defenders, so this line favoring the Browns by a point is about right. I’m taking the Falcons for now, but if Garrett ends up playing and this line doesn’t move drastically, I will probably change my pick. This is a really close one and Garrett’s presence, even at less than 100%, would be huge for the Browns’ defense.

Atlanta Falcons 27 Cleveland Browns 26

Pick against the spread: Atlanta +1

Confidence: None