Friday, August 23, 2013

Atlanta Falcons vs Tennessee Titans: ATL -2.5 1stH (5Dimes)

Market Watch

First half lines are released a day or two before with lower limits. It opened at -2.5 for Atlanta and there hasn't been any movement. With no new information likely to come, I don't expect any movement here.

Coaches/Motivation

Mike Smith is a great coach to fade during the preseason. He's only 7-15 straight up and 8-11-3 against the spread. However, a closer look reveals that the majority of these losses are accumulated in the less meaningful weeks. In the dress rehearsal Week 3 game, he's 4-1.  With only a half of football to worry about, I expect a strong effort from the Falcons starters.

Mike Munchak is a coach that bettors were keeping an eye on this preseason because he went 6-2 straight up in his first two seasons. Yet, he's 0-2 this year and I think it's more of a function of the team he has on the field rather than his desire to win. This week he said they aren't going to try and do a lot of things. All preseason he's been more interested in getting his starters more snaps to build some chemistry on his revamped offensive line. He's taking the same approach this week, and he's hoping to find a starting center to anchor things.

Quarterbacks

We are only looking at the starters here.

The rap on Locker heading into this year was how much trouble he has progressing through his reads, getting panicky in the pocket, and questionable accuracy. It's hard to draw any conclusions after two games because his weapons are limited, there have been some drops, and his offensive line is in flux.

That said, he still doesn't appear to have the kind of moxy or polish needed to be "the answer" for the Titans. He has a lot more to prove and the Falcons defense will be a tough challenge. Mike Nolan knows how to confuse young quarterbacks and he has a firm grasp on his roster after installing his scheme last year.

Matt Ryan made some huge strides last year, but he's also looking to get comfortable with some new pieces on his own O-line. He lost two longtime guys up front, as well as RT Mike Johnson to injury a couple weeks ago. On the bright side, he's an established starter with a wealth of weapons around him. The up-tempo offense they play also protects against a lot of potential problems up front.

What to watch for ...

The first team offense has been pretty brutal for Tennessee. They've yet to produce a touchdown and Bironas missed three field goals last week.

The Titans defense isn't one with a lot of difference makers. Now they'll have to face Atlanta's no-huddle offense with guys like Julio Jones and Steven Jackson.

CJ and Shonn Green give Tennessee some options on the ground, but they could really use a guy like Kendall Wright on the outside. He's sitting out with an injury.

Speaking of CJ, this will be the first time the Falcons D will face a runner with speed this year. This will be a test and MLB Akeem Dent will be a guy to keep an eye on.

One big question mark for the Titans is in their secondary. Alterraun Verner gets the start for the first quarter opposite of Jason McCourty, but Tommie Campbell comes in for the second quarter. The Falcons have the weapons to exploit these matchups.

Roddy White is out, but Tony Gonzalez will make his preseason debut.

Tennessee is missing four of the starting front seven players on defense. Tackling was already an issue for this group in the previous two games, so the woes could continue again here.

Bottom Line

It's always a risk with first half picks. A fumble or pass interference call could be the difference, but I like the advantages for the Falcons on both sides of the ball. They have less injuries, a better QB, and play much more aggressively on offense.

The Titans are a run based team trying to break in an overhauled O-line. On defense, they are missing a lot of starters and have an unsettled secondary. On top of all that, they don't even have a reliable kicking game.

Barring a big surprise, I see Atlanta's first-teamers taking a lead into halftime.

NFL Pick: ATL -2.5 1st H.