Monday, December 23, 2013

NFL Preview 2013 Week 16: Falcons vs 49ers

Atlanta Falcons vs San Francisco 49ers

Market Watch

In the look-ahead line, the 49ers were -11 point favorites for this Monday Night Football game. After the Falcons had a let down effort against the Redskins in Week 15, sportsbooks re-opened this line at -13.

Apparently that wasn't enough, as the line was bet all the way up to -14.5, before settling in at -14.

On paper, this line should be somewhere in single digits, but there is clear inflation in this point spread due to the situation. The Falcons have long been eliminated from the playoffs, and there is a lot on the line for San Fran. This is likely the last game at Candlestick, and the 49ers have an outside shot at winning the division, so people are expecting a first class game from the home team.

As we approach kickoff, 64 percent of the bets are on the 49ers.

Keep an eye on

The key problem for the Falcons is their defense. Normally, that wouldn't be very insightful, but they are so bad on that side of the ball, that there's no one area that stands out.  Ok, their pass rush ranks dead last, but they can't stop the pass or the run, get off the field on third down, or keep people out of the end zone. When you are ranked this low in that many categories, there's no reason to think they'll be able to slow down the 49ers in a big game.

Speaking of that 49ers offense, they don't do anything great, but they do everything really, really well. The most impressive aspect of their attack is that that are near the top of the NFL in red zone offense. When you have guys like Kaepernick and Gore, and one of the best play-callers in the league, it's tough to stop them inside the 20.

The only chance Atlanta has will be with the arm of Matt Ryan. He's had a really underrated season, but the supporting cast hasn't been there. Julio Jones was lost for the year, Roddy White dealt with a high ankle sprain for most of the season, and Steven Jackson didn't get going until recently. Harry Douglas has performed well, and Tony Gonzalez has been productive, but it hasn't been enough.

Curiously, the 49ers defense isn't as good inside their own red zone as they are at keeping people from reaching it. That might be something Atlanta could take advantage of, but converting red zone chances into touchdowns isn't what the Falcons do well this year.

On top of that, they have to figure out a way to stop Aldon Smith. Lamar Holmes is one of the worst tackles in the league, so that will be a spotlight matchup.

Bottom Line

I'm very tempted to take Atlanta because the line is so inflated. When you give a guy like Matt Ryan two touchdowns, that's usually a good bet. There is also the opportunity for a meaningless backdoor cover.

Yet, I can't ignore the situation here. There is too much at stake for the 49ers, and nothing but pride for the Falcons. San Fran will win this game, it's just a question of by how much.

When you factor everything in, it's a pass for me.