The top two quarterbacks in the 2008 NFL draft go head to head this week as the 6-2 Baltimore Ravens travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the 6-2 Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta are coming off a convincing win over their NFC South rivals Tampa Bay Bucs, while the Ravens beat the Dolphins in week 9 to supplant themselves back into first in the AFC standings.
The Falcons are a very good team at home, 4-0 this season in fact. Their game plan at home since Mike Smith took over as head coach hasn’t wavered; they lean heavily on Michael Turner and the run game and it’s been highly successful during Smith’s tenure. Over the past 3 seasons, the Falcons are 17-3 at the Georgia Dome. Over the last 4 games they’ve averaged over 5 yards per carry on an average of 27 carries per game, and the success of the run game has opened things up in the passing game. Matt Ryan and Roddy White are showcasing their connection on a weekly basis. In White’s last 5 games, he’s torched opponents for over 100 yards twice, 200 yards once, and found the end zone three times, and he currently sits in 2nd in total receiving yards with 796. This week they face a tough test against the 9th best passing defense that gives up just over 200 yards per game through the air. But even more daunting is the return of Baltimore’s top Safety Ed Reed. Last week against the Dolphins, Reed had 2 interceptions and a forced fumble. With 6 pro bowls in 8 years and the 2004 defensive player of the year award under his belt, Reed is the best Free Safety in the game, and his impact on the field is unquestioned.
On the offensive side of things, Baltimore are a little better than average through the air. Flacco has used his new target Anquan Boldin well this year as they’ve injected more passing plays into their philosophy. Last year they were one of the better rushing teams in the league, but this year’s a different story. Ray Rice has had a quiet year and was hampered with injuries to begin the season. With 9 weeks gone, he’s only found the end zone twice, and has only surpassed 100 rushing yards once, while through 9 weeks last year he had 6 TD’s. It’ll be tough for him to get going this week with the Falcons ranked 6th best against the run. But last week against Miami they were very successful in throwing screen passes to both Rice and Willis McGahee. Between them they caught 10 passes for 139 yards, which includes a 33 yard TD run by McGahee. Look for much of the same on Thursday night as the Falcons will be playing deep to take away the deep ball. Flacco should throw the ball close to 40 times this week.
Ravens vs. Falcons Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Baltimore Ravens +1
@ Atlanta Falcons -1
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Raven vs. Falcons Predictions for Week 10 Betting:
Spread Prediction (Top Play): The Raven’s secondary wasn’t expected to be very good this year, especially with Ed Reed out for the first 8 weeks, but they’ve stepped up and played very well. Their defense as a whole is ranked 6th, giving up only 17 points per game. But the Falcons are scoring just over 30 ppg at home this year and will be a tough test for the Ravens. Last week I predicted that the Falcons would beat the Bucs but that the odds makers were giving Tampa too many points at -8.5, but this week I like the Falcons to cover. This will be a close game but I don’t think the -1 will play a factor. The Falcons are too good at home for a Ravens team that has seen both of their season losses come on the road.
Game Total Prediction: Both teams will look to establish the run early. The Ravens will try and get Rice going to take the loud Georgia Dome faithful out of the action, while the Falcons will run because, well, that’s what they do at home. Baltimore’s defense usually plays better on Prime Time, and with the leadership they have on the field in Reed and LB Ray Lewis, the Ravens will be prepared to play some tough football. Both teams have shown this year they can play in low scoring games (Balt have held 6 opponents to 17 points or less; ATL have held 4 teams to 15 points or less). I think 43 points is too high for this game. I like the Under.