The Philadelphia Eagles have fired their defensive coordinator Juan Castillo in the hopes of turning their season around. The problem is they run into a very good Atlanta Falcons team that is also coming off a bye. I believe the wrong team is favored in this match-up, and I like the Falcons to cover this spread.
This is another point spread on the board that makes zero sense. The Eagles were two and a half point favorites in the look-ahead line, and they remain two and a half point favorites as I write this. In fact, you can find an affordable "three" if you shop around (odds from SBRforum). Someone smarter than I am is going to have to explain this, because I am clearly not seeing the same thing.
Stats are for Losers?
Unless you're an owner, coach, or player, wins and losses don't mean a thing in the short-term. What's much more important is the true identity of a team and how they are performing in the make or break moments. This pick has nothing to do with the fact that the Falcons are 6-0 on the season while the Eagles are 3-3.
Many are going to point to the fact that Andy Reid has a phenomenal record after the bye. This is a legitimate factor to consider when handicapping the Eagles each season, but by no means should it result in a five point swing on the spread. I have this line as Atlanta -2, so let's take a closer look at why.
After the Bye
Andy Reid's record after the bye are well-documented, but there's more important bye-week factors here. First, in the category of "better-late-than-never", they have fired Juan Castillo. I (and the rest of the football world) thought he should've been fired last year, but it's good that they decided to do this before the season is a complete disaster.
The problem is whether or not they'll have enough time to make the necessary adjustments to stop a potent Atlanta offense? I have my doubts about that...
Yet, the biggest thing being overlooked this week is the fact that the Falcons have two new coordinators themselves this season. With an extra week to review the season, I like Atlanta's chances of coming out strong in this game. They've had a chance to catch their collective breaths and grab an even stronger grasp on the new schemes on each side of the ball.
The bye came at a great time for the Eagles, but I think the Falcons will benefit just as much, if not more. Atlanta is a well-coached football team and they should be ready for this challenge.
Offense: Advantage Falcons
A key reason I like Atlanta here is the consistency of their offense in comparison with Philly. Simply put, they've remained fairly consistent all year long and rank near the top in passing, drive success, third down conversion, and red zone.
The same can't be said for Mike Vick. He is a turnover machine, doesn't read blitzes very well, and does not feel pressure when it's coming. That is a serious problem when Mike Nolan is on the other side of the field.
If the Eagles don't rely heavily on McCoy, I have little faith that Vick is going to match Matt Ryan and his collection of weapons in the passing game. The Falcons defense have a glaring weakness against the run and haven't been very stout in the red zone.
Given Reid's track record, it's a good bet that he'll maintain his heavy passing attack, even with an extra week to prepare. There have been countless times when they started out with a balanced attack, only to abandon it when things go wrong or they fall behind.
It's entirely possible that the Eagles come out with a renewed sense of purpose, run the ball, and get Matt Ryan off balance. Having said that, we have to make a lot of unwarranted assumptions for that to happen. Even if Philly do come out strong, the Falcons aren't about to roll over and concede this win. I think Atlanta win this game, and even if they don't, I like the extra three points in my pocket. Ride the underdog.
NFL Pick: ATL +3.854311