Did somebody say the Atlanta Falcons weren’t for real? They made some real money on the Week 15 NFL betting lines. Let’s see if they can keep it up Saturday night against the Detroit Lions.


Jason’s record on NFL picks for 2012, up to December 15 inclusive:

42-29-3 ATS

10-5 ML (+6.82 units)

13-16-1 Totals 

Well, how do you like them apples? The Falcons have improved to 12-2 SU and 8-5-1 ATS after steamrolling the New York Giants (+1 away) 34-0. A lot of people were on the G-Men in that game – but not the sharps, who spent heavily on Atlanta and got paid off in spades.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions (–5.5 away) lost 38-10 to the Arizona Cardinals to fall to 4-10 SU and 5-9 ATS. So who wants to bet on the Lions for Thursday Night Football? Anyone? You in the Eric Hipple throwback? 

No Pride

Image previewThe opening lines on the NFL odds board have the home side getting 2.5 points, with different books dancing around the magic number three at various levels of vigorish. It’s too early as I write this for any consensus numbers to have come in, but I’ll eat a bug if the sharps touch this Detroit team. As always, any bug I eat must be made entirely of Belgian chocolate.

Would you bet on the Lions? They’ve lost six games in a row at 1-5 ATS. There’s no playoff scenario, or deep-seated hatred for the Falcons, or anyone named Timmy who fell down a well and needs Detroit to save him. The Lions also don’t have half their defense or most of their receiving corps aside from Calvin Johnson. They are done-diddly-done.

Stooping Up 

Now, about those Falcons. They were No. 11 on the efficiency charts going into Week 15, playing well enough to earn 7.1 Estimated Wins. Definitely not good enough for a team that had 11 Real Wins at that point. But Atlanta had also played the weakest schedule in the NFL. How badly would the Falcons have had to beat up their opposition to get those efficiency numbers up to snuff? 

I’m sure there’s a way to calculate that. But all Atlanta needs to do this Thursday (8:20 p.m. ET, NFLN) is beat Detroit by at least a field goal. The Falcons are 0-3 ATS this year when laying more than four points, and 8-2-1 ATS otherwise. Seems reasonable to me.

Grunch 

Did I mention the Falcons just beat the Giants 34-0? All the chatter afterward was about how much Atlanta was focused, prepared, and motivated to go out and stomp a mudhole in the defending Super Bowl champions. There is such a thing as a statement game, and this was it. 

Beating the Lions won’t make the same statement. Thursday could be a letdown game for the Falcons, and Detroit may actually try to display some grapefruits after getting embarrassed by the Cardinals. Otherwise, there’s no question who the better team is in this matchup.

Don’t take my word for it. The Lions were No. 13 on the efficiency charts before the Arizona game, weighted heavily toward the No. 7-ranked offense that is now hamstrung with injuries. The Falcons are No. 10 in the NFL this year against the pass. Eli Manning just had his worst game (38.9 passer rating) since 2007. And it’s not like the Giants had nothing to play for – they fell into a three-way tie for the NFC East with that loss. If the Lions can do better, hey, more power to them. Remember, Belgian chocolate.

NFL Picks: Take the Falcons –2.5