Atlanta Falcons (2-4 SU, 2-4 ATS) vs. Arizona Cardinals (3-4 SU, 4-3 ATS)
NFL Week 8
Date and Time: Sunday, October 27, 2014, 4:25 pm EST
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
TV: FOX/DirecTV 712
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Atl. +2.5/Ariz. -2.5
Over/Under Total: 45
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The Atlanta Falcons are still fighting to get back into the NFC playoff picture, but this week theyll finally have to take that fight on the road when they travel to the desert of Glendale, Ariz., and University of Phoenix Stadium to challenge the Arizona Cardinals in a late Sunday afternoon game on Fox.
The Falcons earned just their second win of the season last weekend, holding on for a, 31-23, win over Tampa Bay at home in the Georgia Dome. But with only 18 yards rushing (on 18 attempts) versus the Bucs, its clear that things are still not right with Matt Ryan and the offense. After going just 1-2 on their early season three-game home stand, now the Dirty Birds have to take the struggling show on the road where theres no room for error.
Arizona is in the midst of a two-game slide, losing last week at home in the Thursday Night special to Seattle, 34-22. The good news for the Cardinals is that they are 2-1 at home already this season and have a bye coming up in week nine, so Sundays game against the Falcons can be an all-out, leave everything on the field type of effort in order to try get above .500.
Even though the Falcons have covered in just two games, the public is still very much in love with wagering on them in situations were they feel they are the better team. This week oddsmakers opened the game as a pick, and with large amounts of Falcons money pouring in early (upwards of 65%) the number has been moved to Arizona as 2.5-point favorites on most sportsbooks boards.
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The over/under total on the other hand has hardly moved at all, opening at 45 late on Sunday and still sitting at the same number by mid-week.
As mentioned, the normally run-heavy Falcons are in unfamiliar territory when it comes to their running game these days and its making it hard to handicap them each week. With only 18 carries in a game they lead wire-to-wire last week against an NFC South rival at home it almost makes it look like they have made a philosophical change in scheme to try and let Ryan throw them back into contention. It likely wont get easier this week either, although word has it Steven Jackson is back at practice, because the Cardinals have one of the best run defenses in the NFL this season (97 ypg 7th).
The Falcons offense is also limited due to injuries, like every team these days. Tackle Sam Baker (knee), Jackson and Roddy White (hamstring) are all questionable again this week, and this is an offense already playing without Julio Jones.
Arizona is somewhat offensively challenged as well, gaining just 310 yards a game to rank 29th in the 32-team league. Stop me if this is familiar, but a lack of a running game (78 ypg 26th) is hurting the Cardinals balance, and Carson Palmer and a young receiver crew (with a dinged up Larry Fitzgerald) is struggling to score in the red zone when the going gets tough and space is constricted.
Last year the Falcons beat the Cardinals, 23-19, at home in the Dome, but that was last year before Palmer was playing QB and Atlanta was playing at half-staff. However, the Cardinals are 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS when the play the Falcons at home going back as far as the 1995 season.
The strongest betting trend play for this game is on the over, since it is 8-2 in the last 10 head-to-head meetings between the Cards and Falcons, including a perfect 5-0 mark in games played in Arizona.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Most of the money is coming in on Atlanta, yet the point spread is moving in the other direction. That usually signals sharp money on the other side. I’ve been waiting for this Cards passing game to bust out huge and I think this will be the week as the Falcons secondary might be the worst in the NFL right now. The pick here is Arizona to defend their home turf. Take Arizona -2.5.