NFL Sunday Predictions - Week 13
by Josh Nagel - 12/3/2009
Spread: Eagles -5.5.
Overview: When you're looking for value in the NFL, there's nothing quite like a home underdog. That is, especially when the home team that is getting the points has a winning record and is undefeated at home.
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The Atlanta Falcons have both records in their favor, which makes it puzzling why this line, which opened at Eagles -1.5 or -2 at most sportsbooks, was quickly bet up to -5.5 at most books worldwide.
The Falcons are 5-0 overall and 4-1 ATS at home, despite a leaky defense that has been their downfall in their 6-5 season this far. They will be facing an Eagles club that had to rally late for a 27-24 win over the Washington Redskins last week, while the Falcons did the same in their 20-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Although quarterback Matt Ryan and running back Michael Turner were both injured last week, Turner is expected to play and Ryan's backup, Chris Redman, led the team to its late rally and victory over the Bucs.
Despite missing their starting quarterback, the Falcons desperately need a home win here to salvage their postseason hopes, and they could get one by relying on the running game and getting a standout effort from their underachieving defense.
The Eagles have been known to be erratic on the road, and have also been known for late-season fades. Even so, they bring the league's ninth-ranked defense and No. 11 offense (357 yards per game) into Atlanta, and Philadelphia has shown more explosiveness on offense this year than perhaps any other in Donovan McNabb's career.
Even so, you have to like the value here with an Atlanta team with its season on the line and a proven history of getting the job done on its home turf.
Trends: The Falcons are 4-1 ATS in their last five home games and against teams with winning records. The Eagles are 6-1 ATS following an ATS loss and are 5-1 ATS against home teams with winning records.
Pick: Falcons +5.5.
Game: Dallas Cowboys (8-3, 6-5 ATS) at New York Giants (6-5, 4-6-1 ATS)
Spread: Cowboys -1.5.
Overview: You might think a New York Giants team that started the season 5-0 but now sits at 6-5 would be in the midst of a full meltdown. Although their last outing, a blowout road loss to the Denver Broncos, would seem to lend credence to this notion, the Giants likely aren't as bad as their recent woes suggest.
Their five losses have all come against teams likely to make the playoffs: the Broncos, New Orleans Saints, San Diego Chargers, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles.
One of New York's wins came against the Dallas Cowboys in a nationally televised contest that spoiled the christening of the Cowboys' brand-new stadium. New York's performance also showed the Giants' penchant for exposing Dallas's weakness on defense, as Eli Manning and friends carved up the secondary to repeatedly pick up big third downs and keep drives alive.
No doubt, the Dallas pass defense (21st in the league, 224 ypg) will be tested again, along with a steady dose of the Giants' physical rushing attack. The Cowboys have the league's fourth-best offense (392 ypg) but faces a New York defense that is ranked No. 4 overall as well.
Moreover, critics of Tony Romo will note that he has his worst outings in hostile environments. Despite their 8-3 record, the Cowboys self-destructed in road losses to the Broncos and the Green Bay Packers, each of whom are inferior clubs. They could have beaten both if not for dismal execution and focus in the second half.
This is a must-win for the Giants against a familiar division opponent, and there's value in the line because of their recent struggles.
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Trends: The Cowboys are 7-3-1 ATS as a road favorite of 3-10 points, and 4-1 ATS following a straight-up win. The Giants are 5-1 ATS as an underdog of three or fewer points, and 15-5-1 ATS in their last 21 games overall as an underdog.
Pick: Giants +1.5.