As soon as the final whistle blew last week in the Atlanta-New England game, and the Falcons had officially fallen to 1-3, this was my first thought. I am going to take Atlanta at any spread next Monday night against the Jets. There are a few reasons why, but before I dive into that, it looks like the public agreed with me. The line opened at Atlanta -7.5, and in just a day jumped up to -9.5. Clearly, the betting public is on board that Atlanta will win what is a must win game for them.
There are some teams in the NFL that play down to their competition. The New Orleans Saints and the Dallas Cowboys are two teams that come to mind for me. One thing we know about Atlanta is that they don’t play down to their competition. The knock on the Falcons is their inability to win big games against the NFL’s elite. However, they usually have no problem taking care of the lesser teams in the NFL, going 25-5 in their last 30 home games where they are favorites. It’s safe to say that the Jets certainly fall into the lesser teams category.
Last Sunday’s loss to New England was a rare sight for Falcon fans. Atlanta has been virtually unbeatable in the Georgia Dome, going 26-4 in their last 30 regular season home games. They aren’t quite as dominant against the spread in those games, but they are still an impressive 18-10-2. Bottom line, the Falcons know how to get it done at home.
Before we talk about what the Jets will need to do to pull off the upset, also consider this. Atlanta is 1-3 in the packed NFC right now. It’s too early to call it, but the 4-0 Saints are well on their way to winning the division. Assuming the 49ers can right the ship, that leaves only one wild card spot up for grabs. With the Bears and Lions both 3-1, the Falcons are already two games behind in that race. You get the point. It’s only Week 5, but Atlanta is facing a must win game on Monday night.
The Jets shocked many by jumping out to a 2-1 record, but they came crashing back down to earth last week when they were dominated 38-13 by Tennessee. Geno Smith had his version of the butt fumble when he failed in his attempt to go behind the back with the ball.
The Jets haven’t exactly been lighting up the scoreboard, averaging just 17 points a game so far this year. While Atlanta hasn’t been their usual selves on offense, they still average nearly a touchdown more per game. Geno Smith is connecting on less than 60% of his passes, and has a 1-2 Touchdown to Interception ratio. No, those numbers aren’t reversed. Four TDs and Eight INTs will not get it done on the pro level.
Last season, the Falcons went 7-1 at home. The lone loss was to Tampa Bay in the last week of the season, a game where most of the starters were resting with home field advantage already secured. While there may not be any positive news for Jets fans in this stat, there is this. Atlanta only blew one team out at home all year long, a 34-0 win over the Giants in Week 15. Outside of that win, all but one of Atlanta’s wins were by one possession scores, a result that would give the Jets a spread win this week.
I’m not going to try and make much more of any argument for New York here. Despite their solid start, I still think 7-9 is the absolute ceiling for the Jets, with them more likely ending at 5-11. Meanwhile, I still think that Atlanta is a playoff team once they are healthy, and they will show that on Monday. This game has blowout written all over it, and I think that Atlanta will try to run up the score to send a message, weak as it may be against the lowly Jets.
On a final note, I love the over on points of 43.5 in this game. Truth be told, if Atlanta’s offense hits its stride in this game, they could put up 45 points on their own. Toss in a couple touchdowns for the Jets, and I would bet hard on the over. I’m looking at a final score of 38-17, covering both the -9.5 spread for the Falcons, and the 43.5 over.