The Atlanta Falcons are no longer undefeated, but they can continue to carve out a place among the top Super Bowl contenders with a win over the Tennessee Titans.
Jason's 2015 record as of Oct. 20: 21-15 ATS; 0-1 ML (-1.00 units); 14-23 Total
Once upon a time, the Atlanta Falcons were undefeated. Then they appeared on Thursday Night Football and made a mess of it. The Falcons coughed up the ball five times (!) against the New Orleans Saints, who recovered three of those fumbles while going turnover-free in a 21-31 victory. Atlanta dropped the cash as a 3-point road chalk in a week where home dogs went 5-1 ATS.
Home faves weren't nearly as successful at 3-5 ATS. That includes the Tennessee Titans; they lost 38-10 to the Miami Dolphins as 2.5-point faves, and they also lost QB Marcus Mariota to a sprained MCL. Here we go again. Mariota is expected to miss Sunday's matchup (1:00 p.m. ET, FOX) with the visiting Falcons, if not longer. Tennessee opened as a 3.5-point puppy on our Week 7 NFL odds board, and moved quickly to +4 after 99 percent of early bettors jumped on the Falcons. The UNDER is also getting 91-percent consensus on the total of 48.
Believe it or not, the Titans (1-4 SU, 2-3 ATS) were making big strides this year. They were sitting at No. 14 overall (No. 16 offense, No. 8 defense, No. 29 special teams) on the DVOA charts at Football Outsiders going into Week 6. Narrow losses at home to the Indianapolis Colts (–3) and the Buffalo Bills (+1) cut into Tennessee's record, but Mariota was getting the hang of the offense, and the defense was especially strong under new co-ordinator Dick LeBeau.
Now the Titans have to hit the pause button again on their eternal rebuilding project. Mariota was playing well above replacement level going into the Dolphins game; his +84 passing DYAR put the rookie ahead of guys like Drew Brees (+72 DYAR) and Russell Wilson (+58 DYAR). Now it appears Zach Mettenberger will be under center against the Falcons. Mettenberger posted –211 passing DYAR for the Titans last year. Sheesh.
Bring Back Stickum
As for the Falcons (5-1 SU, 4-2 ATS), they obviously weren't as good as their undefeated record would have suggested. In fact, they were just one spot ahead of Tennessee on the DVOA charts at No. 13 overall (No. 6 offense, No. 17 defense, No. 22 special teams) before spitting the bit against New Orleans. We'll see how the numbers shake out once the Week 6 charts get published. Suffice to say the Falcons are spiraling downward at the moment.
That doesn't necessarily mean Atlanta's gone completely off the rails. Turnovers are tricky things, especially fumbles. They introduce an added element of luck to the game – that's just the way the prolate spheroid bounces. A little bit more TLC with the football would make the Falcons an even tastier NFL pick this week. Stay tuned for our verdict against the spread and total.