NFL Week 1 Monday Night Football: Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons
Philadelphia Eagles @ Atlanta Falcons +3.0 (-115) [Upgraded to +3.5 (-120)]
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
September 14, 2015 7:10pm EDT
Our three primary handicapping tools each hint at value for Atlanta backers when the league's other birds (OK, not the Ravens or Seahawks) come to town for the first game of the new NFL season.
Our power rankings approach lists Philly at #7 and the Falcons way down at #21. However, despite the space in between these teams' rankings, after considering that the Falcons hold home field advantage, the game becomes a virtual toss-up by this measure.
We also employ two simulation routines, one of which anticipates an outright victory for the Dirty Birds (albeit by the narrowest of margins), while the other anticipates a slim cover.
Philly's QB, Sam Bradford, is a bit of an unknown quantity. Bradford took only 15 pre-season snaps, providing little data from which to forge an opinion. However, during his stint in St. Louis, the Oklahoma alum's body of work was uninspiring. With few exceptions, Bradford posted below-average numbers for yards per attempt, completion percentage and touchdown percentage, and above-average interception and sack percentages.
On the other hand, the Falcon's QB, Matt Ryan, has proven quite competent over his seven year professional career. Ryan is above average in yards per attempt, completion percentage, touchdown percentage and overall rating.
Further, the Falcons addressed deficiencies in the pass rush department and on their offensive line during the offseason, including drafting Defensive End Vic Beasley, Jr. (Clemson) and bringing in Kyle Shanahan to manage the offense (along with a new zone-blocking scheme for the O-line).
Also in support of our perspective, public support is dramatically skewed against Atlanta (per SportsInsight) -- as we have discussed many times by now, extreme sentiment is a contrarian indicator. However, the line has moved in Philly's favor. We remind ourselves though that the initial line was set almost five months ago -- before the draft, for instance. We find slight comfort in that the line has held steady at Falcons +3 this month.
Bottom Line: We are perfectly comfortable sticking to our knitting and betting on the Falcons to cover the when the Eagles come to town Monday evening. Our power rankings work and two simulation routines each point to Atlanta beating the umber. The sentiment setup is likewise consistent with a Falcons cover. Thus, as has been a primary theme in our week 1 picks, we are siding with the home team, and in this case, taking the points.
[Edit: We upgraded our Falcons +3.0 (-115) wager to Falcons +3.5 (-120) at about 2pm EDT on 9/14/2015. The home team losing by three is the most common outcome in NFL football over the last five complete seasons (105 instances of a +3 finish, out of 1,334 total games), so we had at least a bit of trepidation when we laid the wager. Now, given that betting market's continuous affirmation of Philly to cover, we are happy to pay up to receive the extra half point.]