The Atlanta Falcons’ season isn’t truly over if they lose on Sunday. But it would sure seem like it.
We’ve waited all season for the Falcons to play like the team we saw in the Super Bowl last season. It hasn’t happened, aside from one great night against the Green Bay Packers early in the season. They’re 4-4, and this week seems like a crossroads game in their season.
Because if the Falcons can’t beat the Ezekiel Elliott-less Dallas Cowboys at home, it’s probably time to give up on the idea that Atlanta is going to make some incredible charge.
Last week was a similarly big game at NFC South rival Carolina, and the Falcons didn’t play well. They still had a shot to win, but Julio Jones’ inconceivable drop in the end zone on a key fourth down kept the game out of reach. It was a metaphor for their season.
Beating the Cowboys won’t be easy. Dallas is playing much better the past few weeks and, unlike the Falcons, they are looking like the Dallas team we saw last season. Even though Elliott will be suspended (there’s not another surprising court decision that’ll pop out of nowhere before Sunday like we’ve seen roughly 47 times in the past two months, right?), the Cowboys are still capable in many areas. This won’t be an easy game for the Falcons, but it seems like they need to win it. They’re already two games behind the division-leading Saints and a game-and-a-half behind the Panthers.
It’s probably foolish but I hang onto the idea that the Falcons can still be a contender and pick them as a 2.5-point favorite, and they’ll be a SuperContest pick (the line is minus-3 in the SuperContest) for me as well. It’s hard to believe a team that was so good last season, with so much talent on both sides of the ball, is simply going to fade away. Even with a loss they could still rally and make the playoffs, but the problem is they haven’t shown any signs that they’re the kind of team that can get on a run. That has to change on Sunday.
Here are the picks against the spread for Week 10:
Browns (+12) over Lions: All of these numbers are from OddsShark: The Browns have lost 16 in a row on the road. They’re 0-3-1 against the spread in their last four games off a bye (so no edge there). They’ve lost seven of their last eight against the Lions. Cleveland has failed to cover the spread in six of their last seven games. And still … this is too many points. It’s not fun to pick the Browns but this seems like the right side. (The spread is plus-13.5 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Bengals (+4.5) over Titans: I want to believe in the Titans. They’re 5-3, and they were the team I picked for a breakout this season. But when you watch them play, there’s nothing that leads you to believe that 5-3 record is legitimate. There’s still a chance they could get it going, because there’s talent, but there are no signs of that happening.
Redskins (+1) over Vikings: The Vikings are a good team, but so is Washington. Last week’s win against the Seahawks said a lot about them. I’m assuming they get a few of their injured players back this week and win at home. (The spread is a pick ’em in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
Dolphins (+9) over Panthers: Deep within a loss to the Raiders was a pretty good performance by Jay Cutler, by far his best with the Dolphins. The Panthers will win their share of games this season, but I don’t foresee them winning too many by double digits. (The spread is plus-10 in the Yahoo Pro Football Pick’em.)
And here are the rest of the picks …
Cardinals (+5.5) over Seahawks (picked Thursday): How many weird beats have their been in prime-time games this season? The Cardinals were going to get a great backdoor cover in the final two minutes, and then Phil Dawson’s extra point got blocked. Brutal.
Bills (+2.5) over Saints: This is a fun game between two surprise teams. I’m fully on board with the Saints (and considering they’re favorites on the road against a 5-3 team, many others have bought in too), but this is still a tough spot for them against a well-coached team.
Packers (+5) over Bears: The Packers, and particularly their coaching staff, haven’t impressed me since Aaron Rodgers went down. I just can’t lay five points with the Bears against them. The Bears should win, but they’re not the type of offense that can blow anyone out.
Colts (+11.5) over Steelers: The less we say about this pick the better. The Steelers are prone to bad performances, but the Colts are simply bad. Yet, they can score just enough to cover a big number. Still, it’s not easy picking teams like the Browns, or the Colts.
Jets (-1) over Buccaneers: Who would have thought two months ago that the Jets would be favored on the road against the Buccaneers? There’s nothing that would lead me to pick the Bucs. They looked entirely defeated last week against the Saints, and I don’t know how that gets better without Jameis Winston or Mike Evans.
Chargers (+4) over Jaguars: If the Jaguars can easily dispatch the Chargers, a good team that caught a couple of bad losses early, then it’s a good sign they’re going to roll over an easy schedule in the second half. Are you ready for the Jaguars to become one of the best teams in the NFL? It could happen.
Texans (+12.5) over Rams: There’s little doubt the Rams are for real. Still, they’ve lost eight of their last nine home games and have failed to cover the spread in six of their last seven home games according to OddsShark. I’m not sure I’m ready to lay nearly two touchdowns with them, although the Texans are a pretty bad team after the Deshaun Watson injury.
49ers (pick ’em) over Giants: San Francisco has to see this as their best shot to get a win. If they don’t, the 0-16 question is going to get louder. The Giants are a mess right now. If the 49ers can’t beat the Giants at home, then who can they beat?
Patriots (-8.5) over Broncos: The last time the Broncos played a game and didn’t lose by double digits was Oct. 1. This seems like too many points, but the Broncos look broken.
Last week: 7-5-1
Season to date: 71-57-5
SuperContest: 2-2-1 last week, 23-19-3 season to date
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