The Atlanta Falcons test their undefeated record at home against the Oakland Raiders, which could be a letdown game for Matt Ryan and Co.
Atlanta has been squeaking out victories against less-heralded teams, including two fourth-quarter comebacks, yet they are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history.
No one is disputing the power of their offensive attack, led by Ryan and his troupe of skilled pass-catchers Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.
The Raiders, on the other hand, have had two weeks to prepare for their showdown at the Georgia Dome. They’ll look to get back on track with a win outside the division in what looks like a wide-open AFC West.
Scroll down for the spread, over-under total and predictions for this exciting AFC-NFC matchup.
When: Sunday, Oct. 14 at 1:00 PM
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
TV: CBS (Check Local Listings)
Live Stream: NFL Sunday Ticket
Radio: 790 AM and Star 94 (Atlanta), LIVE 105.3 FM (Oakland)
Spread: Falcons -9 (Sportsbook)
Even at 5-0, the Falcons are getting a ton of respect here with this high number over a touchdown. The Raiders are coming off a bye in which they’ve been able to prepare for much more than their home opponent.
Vegas usually gives more respect to the team coming off a bye in this situation.
On the other side, though, any points between seven-and-a-half and nine-and-a-half is usually considered “dead money” to sports books. They don’t mind pushing the number a couple points higher as long as it doesn’t reach the all-important number 10.
So whether it involves money or a friendly wager, keep that in mind, if the number looks too hefty at first glance.
And I like the Raiders to hang around, if you’re asking. The Falcons would be just fine and dandy getting out of this one with a field goal or touchdown win.
Atlanta’s scoring prowess is well-documented, as they have scored 24 points or match up every game this season.
Somebody will have to score with the Falcons in this one, and Vegas is inclined to think the Raiders will have some punch this Sunday.
Expect a heavy dose of Darren McFadden early and often, but the Raiders wouldn’t be the Raiders without trying some shots downfield. That’s what gets the number a couple more points over the standard totals around the 45-point range.
If I had to lean any way here, I would go under. The Falcons may not need to run up the score to stay ahead and the defense will have a nice showing at home.
Injury Report (Via USA Today)
Darius Heyward-Bey, WR—QUESTIONABLE—CONCUSSION
Tommy Kelly, DT—QUESTIONABLE—FOOT
Jonathan Babineaux, DT—QUESTIONABLE—GROIN
Peria Jerry, DT—QUESTIONABLE—THIGH
Stephen Nicholas, LB—QUESTIONABLE—KNEE
Lousaka Polite, FB—QUESTIONABLE—HAMSTRING
Big Fantasy Plays
Oakland: Darren McFadden
The Raiders should be well prepared to open running lanes for their star in the backfield, especially when he faces the 27th ranked run defense in Atlanta. Nobody on Oakland needs the bye week more than McFadden, who has been a mainstay on the injury report every year.
The bye week couldn’t be more integral for the Raiders rushing attack, either, who has averaged only 60 yards per contest. The bye, plus a cocky Falcons team, should be advantageous for McFadden to put up stronger numbers than he’s had this year.
Atlanta: Julio Jones
On the opposite sideline, the Falcons offense is full of weapons, no more than their receivers who are foaming at the mouth watching these Raiders corners on film. Their 28th ranked defense looks like a gold mine for Julio Jones, who will be a big target all game long.
Matt Ryan has no trouble throwing it up to his rangy second-year wideout, yet Jones has yet to have a breakout fantasy game that propels him to the wide receiver elite.
A home game against a porous secondary should do the trick, and make some fantasy owners smitten.
Keys to Victory
Oakland: Getting Defensive Stops Early
The Raiders have gotten behind the 8-ball too many times this season; getting off to a strong start will go a long way to hang around against one of the league’s best teams.
The key to the Raiders getting the home team off the field will be generating a swift pass rush. Oakland head coach and defensive mind Dennis Allen will surely have some blitz wired up to test Matty Ice throughout. In addition, the secondary is sure to be on red alert early to keep the Falcons receivers in line.
Atlanta: Don’t Take the Foot Off the Gas Pedal
The Falcons have been rejuvenated by their passing game this year, but they’ll be short-sighted if they try to merely run away with this game. They’ve needed fourth quarter comebacks the past two weeks to win, and this matchup looks just as formidable.
This team passes to set up the run, not the other way around. If they get comfortable with a touchdown-lead or something similar, this Raider team has proven to be pesky when they need to be.
Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Falcons are no longer the power running team they once were. Keep the Matt Ryan for MVP bandwagon up and running by giving him the rock.
Prediction: Falcons 24 Raiders 20
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