Please allow us a moment to wipe the egg off our face.
A week after we proclaimed, “NFL road trips have never been easier,” home teams proceeded to go 12-1 against the spread last week. Whoops!
Even with that disastrous week from road teams, road teams are well ahead of the curve this season. According to The Gold Sheet, road teams are 74-56 against the spread this season with road underdogs clocking in with a record of 53-35 ATS.
Our Week 10 handicapping has led us toward looking at the under in several contests. Why? Nearly every game on this week’s slate has significant playoff implications for one or both teams. It’s only Week 10, but this week’s outcomes will drastically shape how the playoff picture shakes out in both conferences. Teams will tighten up. Coaches will get conservative.
Thursday’s AFC West battle between Oakland and the LA Chargers is a “must not lose” contest for both teams. Carolina-Green Bay, Minnesota-Dallas and Seattle-San Francisco could all be playoff previews in the NFC. The Rams and Steelers are both clawing to get back into the playoff mix.
How will coaches handle these spots? Will they play to win, or will they play not to lose?
If Minnesota and Dallas met in the playoffs in a few weeks, would we see a total of 48? I don’t think we would. Yet that’s the number we’re looking at on Sunday night.
If you’re anticipating that same kind of playoff-level energy this week, you almost have to treat these contests as modified playoff games and not your standard Week 10 regular season games.
Falcons +13 at Saints, Total 51.5: Over the last five seasons, no one would have blinked twice at a total of 51.5 between these two teams. Those days are over. The Saints now have a top-tier defense, and the Falcons are struggling to field a healthy 53-man roster.
The total in this game is being priced like a 2016-17 Drew Brees vs. Matt Ryan shootout. Over its last three games, New Orleans’ defense is allowing an NFL-best 4.3 yards per play. The Saints’ defense will be the best unit on the field on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, the same optimistic picture cannot be painted on the other side of the NFC South. Atlanta’s season has been riddled with injuries and the likely removal of Dan Quinn at head coach. Matt Ryan is expected to return from his ankle injury, but he didn’t practice on Monday so his mobility has to be questioned heading into this game.
With a spread of -13 and a total of 51.5, we’re looking at a projected score in the neighborhood of 32-19. With a hobbled quarterback and no Mohamed Sanu on the roster, can we trust the Falcons to score three touchdowns? Atlanta was shut out for the first three quarters against Minnesota; held to 10 points at home against Tennessee; held to 10 points at home against the LA Rams; and got shut out for the first half at home against Seattle.
Even with receivers like Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Michael Thomas on the field, both of these offenses have relied on a more conservative passing attack this season. Both teams average 10.3 yards per completion, which is 19th and 20th in the NFL.
The Falcons are expected to get cornerback Desmond Trufant back in the lineup, which will certainly be a welcomed boost to their secondary.
Atlanta is breaking in a new kicker on the road who hasn’t kicked in an NFL game in two years. Factor in a brand new punter who will presumably be in charge of holding kicks, and you’re looking at an adventure on all of Atlanta’s extra point and field goal attempts.
Three of the last four meetings in the series have comfortably stayed under 50 points. Let’s make it four out of five with under 51.5 in Saints-Falcons this weekend.