Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1 SU, 3-7 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (6-4 SU, 6-4 ATS)
Week 12 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 1PM EST
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: ARI +4/ATL -4
Over/Under Total: 50.5
The Arizona Cardinals come to the Georgia Dome on Sunday to face the Atlanta Falcons in a key NFC matchup. Atlanta is coming off the bye week after starting the season 6-4 and maybe it was a good time for them to catch their breath for the last 6 games of the season. It's been an up-and-down start to the season for Atlanta, but they hold down first in the NFC South. They are coming off a loss on the road to Philadelphia. But after the bye, they get two in a row at home and look to do damage against the 4-5-1 Cardinals. It's been a rough first ten games of the season for the Cardinals and it got worse in a 30-24 road loss to the Vikings on Sunday. The Cardinals face a must-win situation before their season gets totally away from them. Some say it already has. And with chest pains, head coach Bruce Arians was hospitalized and his status for this game is unknown as of press time.
Atlanta lost their opener to Tampa, before going on a 4-game win streak where things were really cooking, especially on offense. The defense had been shaky all season and that began to show with back-to-back losses that sent them to 4-3. Two straight wins righted the ship, before the loss to Philly before the bye. Still, in an NFC South where everyone else is struggling, they've done well to be in first. After losing 9 of their last 11 to end the season last year, the Falcons are an imperfect, but very dangerous team heading into the final 6 games of the season.
The main stumbling-block for the Falcons this season will be the performance of the defense. With a versatile and high-scoring offense, they don't necessarily need to be great, but they can't be terrible, either. And there have been times this season when they were just that. They're giving up over 28 points per game on average, while having the 30th-ranked pass-defense. That doesn't mean they're not getting good performances. Vic Beasley is becoming the pass-rusher they envisioned when drafting him, as he is among the league-leaders with 9.5 sacks. They've scored three touchdowns this season and can sometimes come up with a big play to stop the bleeding. But in terms of being robust, that's not really the case. Again, they don't have to be great.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan is completing over 68% of his throws with a 24/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has 3247 yards through ten games. It's impressive how many different players the Falcons are able to incorporate into the offense, as it's given the Falcons a diversified approach that allows them to thrive in the event that their stars are being limited. Still, Julio Jones is their main weapon through the air, while Devonta Freeman leads the rushing attack. Jones is joined by ball-catchers Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, RB Tevin Coleman, Austin Hooper, and Jacob Tamme. Coleman has also scored five touchdowns on the ground. This is a group that can strike in any number of different ways.
Atlanta is not a great team. They're only 2-2 at home. At the same time, with the bye, they get two games at home and are now nice and dug-in. The defense is a major point of concern, though they lead all teams in the league in points per game at 32. And they are second both in total offense and in passing. Will they be able to put some distance between themselves and the other teams in the division in the next few weeks?
The Cardinals' loss to the Vikings on Sunday was attributable to mistakes across all phases of the game. The defense did its job for the most part. They held the Vikings to almost nothing on the ground, while Vikings QB Sam Bradford had only 169 yards through the air. The real damage for Minnesota came on a pair of electric 100+ yards plays. First, Vikings corner Xavier Rhodes, who picked off two Carson Palmer passes on the day, returned one 100 yards for a touchdown. Then a 104-yard kickoff return by Cordarrelle Patterson for a touchdown added another non-offensive score.
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Palmer was not at his best on Sunday, with two picks and 198 yards on 20-for-38 passing. RB David Johnson was productive with 103 yards and a TD on the ground and 7 receptions and a TD reception. Jermaine Gresham also caught a TD, but we're not seeing all their offensive pieces form as we did in recent seasons. The line hasn't been very adroit in keeping the opposing pass-rush off of Palmer. And the receiving package of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, and Michael Floyd have not performed as they did last season, while production has dropped off in the tight end department, as well. We have seen one of the better offenses from last season fall to a middling status. After throwing for 35 touchdowns last season, Palmer has only 11 through ten games. It's been a big drop-off.
This is a tough spot for the Arizona offense and the entire team to relocate its bearings. Since week two, their only positive developments have been in wins over the lowly Jets and 49ers. Now coming into the Georgia Dome against a rested Falcons bunch, it might be a less-than-ideal spot for the Cardinals to stumble upon their peak form, though the Atlanta "D" has been exploitable this season. I see both offenses having success this week, with the score going over.
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