Atlanta Falcons vs. Detroit Lions Point Spread – Pick Against the Spread

Atlanta Falcons (12-2 SU, 8-5-1 ATS) vs. Detroit Lions (4-10 SU, 5-9 ATS)
NFL Week 16
Date/Time: Saturday, December 22nd, 2012, 8:30 p.m. EST
Where: Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.
TV: ESPN/DirecTV 206
by Badger, Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: Atl. -4/Det. +4
Over/Under Total: 50.5

The Atlanta Falcons are one win away from clinching a first round bye and home-field throughout the NFC playoffs, a task they’ll try and accomplish this weekend when they travel to Ford Field for a primetime clash with the Detroit Lions Saturday night on ESPN.

Considering the Falcons are a perfect 7-0 in the Georgia Dome this season, Saturday’s game has become one of the biggest games for Atlanta in a long time. After watching the way they destroyed the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants last week in the Dome, 34-0, it’s finally time to admit that the Falcons are one of the teams to beat in the NFC playoffs, a task that becomes so much more difficult to do it when they are playing at home on the carpet.

If the Lions slow death from last year’s surprise NFC playoff team and 10-win season wasn’t already complete, they nailed the coffin shut and chained it up with multiple padlocks following last week’s embarrassing, 38-10, loss at Arizona. The weight on quarterback Matthew Stafford’s shoulders to carry the Lions every week has finally broken him, as Stafford threw three interceptions and had two of them returned for touchdowns in a game that snapped the Cardinals nine-game losing streak while extending the Lions current losing streak to six games.

At this point you don’t know what to expect from the Lions anymore. It’s the NFL, so their 10-loss season this year is likely to cause some people to lose their jobs, a fact head coach Jim Schwartz acknowledged in his press conference Monday. With games left against Atlanta and Chicago, both at home at Ford Field, the Lions can salvage some sort of respect with a decent showing in primetime Saturday night by making the Falcons wait another week to earn the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

Oddsmakers set the opening point spread for the game with Atlanta as 3-point favorites on the road. But with the Falcons drilling of the Giants and the Lions debacle in Arizona still fresh on everyone’s mind, bettors hammered Atlanta early and often and moved the number up to minus -4 or -4.5 at most sportsbooks.

The over/under total opened at 51 and has had the opposite line movement, dropping to 50.5 at the sportsbooks that have moved the number.

The total dropping is a bit curious, since the Falcons-Lions matchup will feature two of the NFL’s top teams at throwing the football.

As I mentioned earlier, the Lions reliance on Stafford to throw it to win has been overwhelming and its moved them up to the No. 1 spot in the NFL at 302 yards passing a game. But Matt Ryan and the Falcons have opened things up this season too, coming in at 5th in the NFL with 288 yards a game. These two teams also have two of the league’s best targets on the outside in Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the footballs are flying on Saturday with over 100 pass attempts combined.

But both teams would be smart to try and establish at least some sort of a running game. The Falcons defense has had issues stopping the run at times (allow 125 ypg – 24th), so the Lions Mikel Leshoure should get touches to try and keep Stafford off his back. The Detroit run defense is also toward the bottom of the NFL pack (119 ypg – 18th), but the Falcons haven’t run the ball effectively all season (90 ypg – 28th) and they’ll need to get Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers going if they want a deep run in the playoffs.

The Falcons came into Ford Field last season and won, 23-16, in a game that saw both teams struggle to establish an offensive rhythm (combined 591 yards, six sacks, three turnovers). Atlanta won straight up as 4.5-poit underdogs, but this season they’re the 4.5-point favorites, so my how a year makes a difference.

Over the years the series is even 5-5 SU on the field (since 1996), with Detroit going 4-3 SU at home. The Falcons hold a slight edge at the window, going 6-4-1 ATS including a 4-2-1 ATS mark in the games played in Detroit.

The total may be dropping because the under looks like the strongest betting trend wager on the board. The under is a perfect 5-0 in the last five meetings in Detroit.

Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I hope you didn’t come here looking to confirm your thoughts that the Falcons are going to blow out a Detroit team who just got killed at Arizona! Detroit will be up for this game as they play well at home. If you look at their home games, they’ve been in every game beating Seattle and losing by 4 or less to GB, Houston and Indy. Atlanta is a good team, but they’re no better than GB or Houston was when Detroit played them. Look for Detroit to stay within 4 or even possibly win this game straight up. Don’t be a sheeple along with the other 70% who are throwing their loot into wind. Take Detroit, a bottle of pepto bismol and come back here and buy me a beer when this game cashes 🙂

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