San Francisco 49ers (1-12 SU, 3-10 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS)
NFL Week 15
Date/Time: Sunday, December 18, 2016 at 4:05PM EST
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
by Scott, Expert Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SF +14/ATL -14
Over/Under Total: 51
On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers come to the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons. The Niners have sunk to pretty low depths, bottoming-out in the last two weeks with consecutive losses to fellow doormat teams the Bears and the Jets. A victory was within sights at home against the Jets on Sunday and they managed to drop their 12th straight in demoralizing fashion. At 8-5, the Falcons look to be in a good spot to add to their postseason case this week. They are in a first-place tie with Tampa atop the NFC South. Last week, they smoked the Rams on the road, 42-14.
The Falcons have been a bit up-and-down since winning 4 straight to go to 4-1. They lost two in a row, won two in a row, and have alternated wins and losses each week for the past five weeks. But unlike last season when they caved in after a good start, the Falcons are hanging in there and look like a dangerous team heading into the final stretch of the season. They have the league’s top-scoring offense. The defense benefits from the prolific nature of the offense, being that they’re one of the more-porous defenses in the conference. Still, the defense is a group that makes plays and can sometimes make up for being so leaky.
Last Sunday, the Atlanta offense got a boost from the other side of the ball, with Deion Jones returning an interception for a TD, while blossoming pass-rusher Vic Beasley sacked and stripped Jared Goff and returned that for a score. Beasley is now tied with Von Miller with the league lead in sacks with 13.5. The Atlanta defense has scored five touchdowns this season with 18 takeaways, as opposed to losing the ball only ten times all season on offense. The defense is admittedly a liability. They are the last-ranked passing-defense in the league. But they’re able to make contributions to the overall team effort, despite being vulnerable.
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan went over 4000 yards on the season in the win over the Rams. Atlanta took a 42-0 lead, before the Rams scored two late TDs. The loss was so bad that the Rams canned their head coach. Atlanta did it with a big assist from the playmaking ability of their defense, in addition to their ability to overcome injuries to their top two receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. This season, the Atlanta offense has focused more on a cooperative approach, with Ryan spraying the ball around to different players, with diversity in the running game, as well. Devonta Foreman is a weapon with 791 yards on the ground along with 39 catches. Back Tevin Coleman has 7 touchdowns on the ground and 2 through the air among his 353 receiving yards. It’s still unclear if Jones or Sanu will return for this week’s game. Jones still leads the league in receiving despite missing last week’s game. WR Taylor Gabriel has been a big weapon with five touchdowns. It’s a potent offense with depth, definitely one of the best in the league. And at home, they’re even better—bad news for a spiraling Niners bunch.
The silver lining is becoming harder and harder to find for the 49ers. On Sunday, they looked great to open the game, with a pair of touchdowns in the first five minutes of the game. They would go on to score a field goal over the remaining course of the game. Even with a lead late, the 49ers could not keep it together, losing in overtime, 23-17. It was their 12th straight loss. They were certainly hoping to get a win in this last two-game stretch against the Bears and Jets and came up snake-eyes.
There is no sugar-coating how awful the 49ers have been this season. If really going out of your way to make a case for this bunch, they have been keeping some teams close in recent weeks—the OT loss last week, a close loss at Miami a few weeks ago, and a close one at Arizona a few weeks before that. They’ve been marginally plucky on the road, as they’re away from home this week. Again, if you look for positives in any situation, you can likely find them.
Even if the 49ers have been getting more-dynamic play at quarterback, Colin Kaepernick still hasn’t been able to manufacture an actual victory. The Frisco run-game looked pretty good on Sunday, with Carlos Hyde having one of his gems with 193 yards on the ground. Shaun Draughn ran in a score. But despite all that and a couple big pass-plays, the Niners could only manage 14 points in the game’s first five minutes and almost nothing for the rest of the contest. Their aerial attack is rated last in the league and it’s just not easy for this team to score points a lot of the time.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t get better for San Francisco when discussing the defense. And the lack of clutch they showed late against the Jets was typical for a team that has lost every close game they’ve been in this season. They’re ranked dead-last in the league in yards, points, and in rushing-defense. Even Bilal Powell was able to have a huge game against this bunch. Injuries have ravaged both sides of the ball, but the defense hasn’t been able to find its footing this season. It’s a team where finding positive things to discuss isn’t that easy.
When betting football, it’s funny how often the conclusions that are the easiest to arrive at end up holding the least amount of water at the end of the day. We see the worst defense in the league in San Francisco taking on the league’s highest-scoring offense at home. It’s almost too convenient to assume a blowout or at least a conclusive win. But even a dilapidated SF offense can do some damage against an Atlanta defense that isn’t all that much stouter than what the Niners typically bring to the table. If there was a team you’d feel confident laying 14 points on Atlanta against, it’d be the Niners. But I can’t do it with this ATL defense. I’ll take the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the San Francisco 49ers plus 14 points.
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