Friday, November 4, 2011

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Atlanta Falcons vs Indianapolis Colts: ATL -7
There are two big questions about this game.  1) Has IND packed it in yet or will they try hard for their first win of the season?  2) Is the recent play of ATL more indicative of what this team is about or are they truly an average team this year?

I came into the season as a big believer in ATL.  They changed their approach to start the year and it took some time for them to figure things out.  Now that they are going back to the basics you are seeing much different results. IND have played their hearts out in a handful of games this year, but continue to get the same results.  Laying a full touchdown on the road is never something I'm entirely comfortable with, but I feel confident that the mismatches are enough to cover the number.

To start with, ATL is going to control this game on the ground.  IND has trouble stopping the run and running the ball themselves.  Given the approach ATL has had over the last month, this will be a key area that milks the clock and sets up the passing game.  Julio Jones is expected back so that should open things up for Ryan and White.  Ryan is a much more effective QB when he's not relied on to be Tom Brady.  ATL have huge advantages on third down, red zone, and points from long drives.  Since so many drives are starting from the 20 this year, points from long drives becomes a crucial stat.  IND is giving up a full 4 points more per game than the average team this year.  Home field advantage isn't going to be much use if they are trailing in the game.  IND is also averaging 6 completed plays less than other teams this year.  Expect a long day for the IND defense.

The other side doesn't get much better.  ATL isn't great getting teams off the field, but they are adept at keeping teams out of the end zone.  They should be able to win the turnover battle and cut down on their penalties.  Over the bye the team went back and examined why they have so many more penalties this year and they found that most of them were correctable.  Things like pre/post-snap errors are things the team has control over.  The news out of IND continues to be dominated by Peyton Manning, but of more concern for us is the injury list of the Colts.  It's a lengthy one...

Usually when a team is struggling as bad as IND is you hope that they can close the gap in other areas.  Unfortunately for them they've been horrible on special teams as well.  ATL should win this game convincingly as their march for Andrew Luck continues on.  Prediction: Bank ATL -7.

New York Jets vs Buffalo Bills: BUF -1
The line in this game has since moved to -2, but anything under a TD would be a play for me.  The first thing that jumps out at you when you look at this game is the striking difference in the home and away records.  NY is 4-0 at home, but 0-3 on the road.  Meanwhile BUF is 3-0 at home and that isn't including their win in Toronto. 

The other big factor that I like about this one is the play of Fred Jackson.  The entire BUF offense goes through his ability to gain yards and NY's run defense isn't what it used to be.  In fact, the only advantage NY have in this game is the play of their special teams.  BUF's offense has been humming along in all categories.  They are near the top in pass protection, red zone, third down, points from long drives, and completed offensive plays.  Conversely, NY has been average in red zone defense, preventing points from long drives, and yards-to-points ratio. Typically NY is much better in their yards-to-points ratio on defense, but for whatever reason this unit isn't playing up to the level we've come to expect from them.

To compensate, NY will need to rely on Sanchez and company to get the job done.  That is going to be tough to do because as bad as BUF's defense has been at times, NY haven't been much better.  NY will have the edge once they move the ball inside the 20, but the problem is getting there.  This is a very average offensive football team.  They aren't getting the pass protection they need to let Sanchez grow and he doesn't have the kind of mobility needed to sustain drives and control the clock.  BUF do have weaknesses on defense, but NY simply can't exploit them unless they win the turnover battle.  That's not something I'm counting on, but it's the only way I see NY winning this game.  Last week BUF registered a season high 9 sacks and if they've turned the corner in that area then I think BUF win this one convincingly.

I have BUF favored at more than a field goal, so when I saw this line I didn't hesitate to jump on it.  Prediction: Bank BUF -1.