Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 12:15 PM EST odds are subject to change.
Arizona +6½ over Atlanta
1:00 PM EST. The Eliminated Bowl. The Falcons were officially eliminated from the playoff race last weekend when they lost to Baltimore, 17-9. The Cardinals aren’t going anywhere either, but that is not news. They’ll be without Kyler Murray, who has yet to undergo knee surgery that will see him out for at least another nine months. Trace McSorley got the start against the Bucs last week and while he passed for 217 yards, he had an interception and two fumbles and will not play this week, In a late-week twist, Kliff Kingsbury named David Blough as the starting QB in place of Colt McCoy. The decision to sit McCoy was done out of an "abundance of caution" after McCoy experienced additional concussion symptoms following Thursday's practice.
What we’re reading and hearing just about everywhere is that these are two teams with very different motivation levels heading into this one. Atlanta has played hard for Arthur Smith all season, and the Falcons need to see what they have with rookie QB Desmond Ridder at the helm. Eight of Atlanta's 10 losses this season have come by one score, including four losses by three points or less. The vibe is very different on the other side of the field, where the Cardinals are counting down the days until vacation starts. That’s the narrative out there but there is much more.
The offensive line has only two starters from Week 1, right guard Will Hernandez (who spent time on injured reserve) and right tackle Kelvin Beachum, who is banged up and is questionable to play here. At tight end, Zach Ertz is out for the season with rookie Trey McBride taking over. DeAndre Hopkins is also out. At cornerback, Antonio Hamilton, Byron Murphy and Marco Wilson have all missed time due to injuries. Hamilton and Murphy won't play and Wilson is questionable. And there is no Budda Baker to help them, as the Pro Bowl safety's season is over with a broken shoulder. According to the Cardinals, 34 different players have missed a combined 213 games due to injury this season and that list will grow over the next two weeks. Thirty-five different players have seen action this season on offense, and 34 on defense. Do we need to go on?
We have consistently preached about the dangers of fading teams based on injuries. Do you think the oddsmakers are unaware? Do you think you have an edge because of privileged information? With Trace McSorley and DeAndre Hopkins making one catch for four yards last week, Arizona easily covered against Tampa Bay. You think that David Blough doesn’t care? Another player that will want to finish strong is future Hall of Fame defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who announced his retirement this week. That’s two dudes we can count on that are not going to be lacking in motivation.
Most importantly, when we wrote this gane up on Friday, Atlanta was a -3-point favorite. With the 24-hour NFL news cycle hinting that McCoy wasn’t likely to play and Hopkins was doubtful, the inefficient market started hammering the Falcons to drive the price to what it is now. We don’t know if Arizona is going to cover. What we do know is that Desmond Ridder and the Dirty Birds cannot be priced in this range against another professional NFL team. Ridder’s learning curve is only starting and he's trying to learn on the job with nearly no weapons of note. The Falcons committee backfield hasn't been more than average overall this year and has declined as the season progressed much as it did in 2021. Next week, the Falcons close out the season at home against the Bucs with possibly a chance to knock Brady and Co. out of the playoff picture. Yeah, Atlanta might be looking ahead. Why wouldn’t they?
Try not to be influenced by all the media spewing its BS about the Cards not caring. You don’t think Kliff Kingsbury is aware he’s on the hot seat? He wants to keep his job or at the very least, he wants to look good for potential employers in any capacity in the likely event that he is given the ax.
Finally, the oddsmakers couldn’t give a rats ass about who is out and who is not for Arizona. If they did, they would have taken this game off the board or they would’ve waited for more info before posting a price. They didn’t because they couldn’t care less and welcomed all wagers. If you bet on Atlanta here, of course you may win but if you decide to, you would be playing them at a horrible and inflated price. There are roughly 40 to 50 young and hungry guys on that Arizona sideline auditioning for jobs next year. It is a massive window of opportunity and they are going to play their hearts out. Ridder and the Falcons spotting this type of lumber is a weak play that should be avoided. We’re calling the upset but will absolutely scoop up the inflated points. Recommendation: Arizona +6½
Arizona +6½ -105 (Risking 2.10 units - To Win: 2.00)