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Bettor's Guide to Falcons vs. Rams

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SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 14:  Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams pushes Tarell Brown #25 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 14 2010 in San Francisco California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 14: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams pushes Tarell Brown #25 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 14 2010 in San Francisco California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Most Average Joes bet on sports like they choose a bottle of wine: the one with the most interesting name or the best colors on its packaging (or uniforms) is the lucky winner.  This is a pretty failsafe plan to end up with less money in your pocket or a bottle of glorified grape juice.  For those of you who look to get-rich-quick or something of the sort, I'm here to help you out.  Looking through the numbers, here are the most important statistics to look at:

1) Average Time of Possession

Rams: 5th in the league (32:03)

Falcons: 4th in the league (32:05)

This tells more about a team than one would think.  Every minute I possess the ball is a minute you don't.  Furthermore, it can generally indicate whether one is moving the ball or others are moving the ball.  Yet in this case the Rams and Falcons are pretty similar, likely for the same reasons: relatively balanced offenses.

2) Defense:

Falcons: 18 sacks, Turnover Ratio +9,  8th in Points Allowed, 17th in Yards Allowed (23rd in pass, 7th in rush)

Rams: 28 sacks, Turnover Ratio +3, 6th in Points Allowed, 12th in Yards Allowed (18th in pass, 6th in rush)

Rams matched up decently against Fitzgerald and Crabtree, haven't played a team with so many quality skills players as the Falcons but also have contained the run game pretty well.  Relatively healthy on defense except for Robbins.  

Falcons have been beaten largely through the air this year.  Have notable injuries at DE and LB.

3) Offense

Falcons: 8th in points, 8th in yards (12th in passing, 8th in rushing), average of 4 ypc, about a 48% 3rd down conversion rate, most of their first downs come via passing.

Rams: 30th in point, 25th in yards (24th in passing, 18th in rushing), average of 4.5 ypc, about a 38% 3rd down conversion rate, most of our first downs come via passing.

Rams have relied on Steven Jackson, and will have to throw to beat the Falcons, even with an injured defense.  Play-action should be called frequently, and the TEs will be crucial.  Even though the injuries to the line are disconcerting, we should be able to shift some guys around and put together a decent effort on the OL.

While Matt Ryan is a respectable player, the big threats to the Rams come in the form of Roddy White, Jason Snelling, and Michael Turner.  The problem is that even in cases where White has been held to under 100 yards, the Falcons have pounded the ball at their opponents on the ground.  Extremely balanced offense.

4) Records

The Falcons are 2-2 on the road, with losses of 6 and 14 points to PIT and PHI and wins of 3 and 10 point over NO and CLE.  Overall the Falcons are 7-2, with a blowout win over ARI and solid wins over other good teams such as TAM and BALT.

The Rams are 4-1 at home, with notable wins over SD, WAS, and SEA.  The sole home loss was the season opener against ARI.  Overall we are 4-5, with every loss except the game against DET a close game.

The Falcons have played considerably better teams, however, and they have furthermore beaten many of the team the Rams themselves have lost to.

5) Other things to note:

Rams are on a one win streak.  Falcons are on a three win streak.

Falcons play at home in a dome.

4:05 kickoff and travel to St. Louis shouldn't affect Falcons.

To give you some betting history from sportschatplace.com, St. Louis is 6-1 against the spread in their last seven games as an underdog, 5-1 against the spread in their last six games against the NFC, and 4-1 against the spread in theri last five against a team with a winning record. Atlanta is 4-1 against the spread in their last five games against a team with a losing record, 5-2 against the spread in their last seven road games, and 9-4 against the spread in their last 13 games overall. The favorite has covered six of the last seven meetings and the home team has covered five of the last six.    

Concluding thoughts:

To be honest, I am surprised the spread is 3.5 on most sites.  While the Rams have been close in most games, the Falcons are the real deal and our offense just cannot stretch the field enough to take advantage of the weaker Falcons defense.  This puts us at a huge disadvantage, as I think we will probably not break 20 points scored, lest the defense step up and keep us in the game from the start.  The Falcons WILL score points.  They have scored against vastly superior teams and statistically destroy us.  They simply have too many threats on offense and we have too few on offense.  I don't doubt our defense will get a turnover or two and a couple sacks, but the big plays are where we will get burned.  I'm going out on a limb here and predicting a 17-24 loss to the Falcons, thus no cover vs. the spread.  You win some, you lose some.  If we win this game, I will be truly surprised, as I consider the Falcons one of the top 3 teams in the NFC.  I think this is a dangerous bet nonetheless, as the hype of a team with a good record coming off a bye week always builds our conception of a team to new peaks, but at the same time, the Rams appear outmatched.