2004 Season NFL Football Past Picks

January 23, 2005

This pick was released to clients on December 31, 1969 at 9:00PM ET.

23

Atlanta at Philadelphia

Sunday 01/23 03:00 PM Eastern

4 units on Philadelphia -4.5 (-110) (risk 4 to return 7.64)  RESULT: WIN

This one is simple. And no one is talking about why. I'll talk about it. The reason why this is a very simple pick is this: Philadelphia is a much better team than Atlanta. Not slightly better. They are MUCH better. The Falcons have only three things going for them: their pass rush, Warrick Dunn, and Mike Vick. Vick has helped them win three to four more games than they should have won this season. He gives the Falcons a shot in any game, even here. But, really in most ways, the Falcons are a very mediocre team. Yes, they won by 30 points last week. But that was exactly what should've happened against a St. Louis team that had no business playing last week. Atlanta was matched up against another overrated and lucky team and they beat them as they should have. They ran for nearly a million yards. But so what? St. Louis can't play defense worth a lick. Also, a good portion of the 47 points the Falcons scored came as a result of huge special teams plays. What I'm saying is that last week's performance was more about how bad St. Louis is than how good Atlanta is. Let me count the ways... The Falcons scored just 3 more points than they allowed during the regular season - even with Vick at the helm. They gave up more yards than they gained. Of the four teams remaining, Atlanta ranks worst in points scored, points allowed, SU win %, ATS win %, yards per pass attempt, completion percentage, and yards per attempt given up and rushing TDs allowed. The Falcons only blew one team out this year, beating lowly Oakland by 25 points. On the flip side, they lost a game this year by 27 points and another by 46 points. Contrast that with Philadelphia (when playing starters) who also got blown out once by Pittsburgh (a bit better opponent than Oakland) yet blew out Carolina, Dallas, Washington the Giants and Green Bay. The question here is, can Philly game plan successfully against Mike Vick, Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett? I believe the best answer for Vick is to put a lot pressure on him and play physical against his receivers. These are both Philadelphia strengths. Philadelphia was second in the league in sacks at 47 (right behind Atlanta at 48). While the Eagles sport a top 10 defense overall from a yardage perspective, they do give up a lot of yards on the ground. This is one reason, I believe why this spread is so low. But, the Eagles don't break. They don't give up points. They gave up only 16.3 points per game this season, tied for second best in the league with New England (Pittsburgh is first). It's no accident that three of the four teams playing this weekend are at the top of this list. In contrast, Atlanta comes in ranked 14th. The Falcons are not going to be able to stop McNabb and Brian Dawkins who is establishing himself as one of the most versatile and dangerous running backs in the league. Terrell Owens is out but he won't be needed here as Mitchell, Pinkston and Greg Lewis (a legitimate deep threat) have stepped it up. McNabb should have a big day as Atlanta is 4th WORST in the league in defensive pass completion percentage (63%) and 21st against the pass overall. I expect Atlanta to have success on the ground but struggle via the air on Sunday. If this happens, does Philly have a good shot at covering? Consider this: Over the past three seasons, Philly is 10-3 ATS when they allow 5 or more rushing yards per attempt and 8-1 ATS when their defense allows 150 or less net passing yards. This Sunday Atlanta isn't facing the Rams. Philly outscored opponents by 66 points this season and knows how to play defense. Don't let last week's performances fool you. Atlanta played a weak opponent. Philly could have and should have won by three touchdowns but they made a few well-timed mistakes and still rolled easily. For Philly, the 4th time will be a charm. Atlanta is one-dimensional and that's not a good thing at this time of year. Vick is at his best when he doesn't have a lot of pressure to throw (i.e. last weekend). This week should be different. The Eagles should handle Atlanta easily here and cover the spread. Four stars on Philadelphia minus the points. View statistical matchup for this game.

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