Expect One Falcon To Break Out Against The Cardinals In Week 6

If he's going to break out, this is the week that it'll happen

Keith Allison, Flickr

Falcons (-2.5) at Cardinals 

Sunday October 13th, 4:05pm EST

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  • The Atlanta Falcons (1-4) are 2.5-point road favorites against the Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1) in Week 6.

  • If they lose, they'll have to face the fact that only three teams since the NFL/AFL merger have made the playoffs after starting 1-5.

  • Falcons running back Devonte Freeman has only averaged 3.2 yards per carry and the Falcons have thrown the ball an NFL-high 72 percent of the time.

  • That has allowed defenses to sit back on Matt Ryan's pass attempts and he already has as many interceptions as he did in all of last season (seven).

  • BetQL's NFL Model labels the Falcons -2.5 as a ★★ bet and Atlanta’s -140 moneyline as a ★★★★ bet, and Freeman's performance will likely be a major determining factor in the game.

What’s At Stake

After their crushing Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots in 2016, the Atlanta Falcons have been slowly declining. In 2017, they went 10-6 before getting bounced by the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Last year, they went 7-9 and missed the playoffs entirely. Now, they’re off to a disastrous 1-4 start, have a -50 point differential and have lost all three of their games on the road. 

Head coach Dan Quinn’s pants are starting to smolder as he’s firmly on the hot seat following an embarrassing 53-32 loss to the Houston Texans last time out. 

But, it’s also worth noting that two of Atlanta’s losses came by narrow margins (24-20 to the Eagles in Week 2 and then 27-24 to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3). Therefore, with a play here or there, this team could easily be 3-2 with a completely different outlook. 

When the Falcons square off on the road against the Arizona Cardinals (1-3-1) on Sunday, not only is Quinn’s job on the line, but their entire season is hanging in the balance. After all, last season, the Colts became just the third team since the NFL/AFL merger to make the playoffs after starting the season 1-5. 

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Devonta Freeman’s Struggles

After watching Tevin Coleman leave in free agency, the Falcons entered this season with complete trust and faith in Devonta Freeman at running back. So far, the lead back experiment hasn’t exactly panned out for Freeman or the Falcons offense as a whole. 

Freeman has carried the ball 58 times for 187 yards (3.2 yards per carry) and hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown yet. He has made an impact as a pass-catcher, though, hauling in 22-of-26 targets for 173 yards and a touchdown. Freeman’s inefficiency as a runner (and the negative game scripts) have forced Atlanta to throw the ball 72 percent of the time (the highest rate in the NFL). 

Last year, the Falcons rushed for 98.3 yards per game. Through five games this year, they’ve managed just 67.6. This pass-centric offense has allowed for opposing defenses to capitalize on the predictability of Matt Ryan’s throws. He has seven interceptions already. For perspective, he had seven interceptions all of last season (along with 35 touchdowns) and in all of the 2016 campaign (with 38 touchdown passes). Not being able to establish the run has been detrimental in essentially every offensive category for Atlanta and has limited the efficiency and potential of Ryan and other playmakers like Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. But that’ll change this week.

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The Juicy Matchup Ahead  

The Cardinals have allowed 138.8 rushing yards per game this season (27th out of 32 teams) and 4.8 yards per run. Further, their opponents have rushed the ball an average of 29.2 times per game against them which is, in part, due to the fact that they play at the highest pace in the NFL (and therefore, opposing teams tend to get in more plays against them than usual). So far, the Falcons have rushed the ball 18.2 times per game (the third-lowest rate in the NFL). 

As seen last week, Atlanta’s defense without the injured Keanu Neal is bad. Like, really bad. Therefore, controlling the clock and winning the time of possession battle will be of paramount importance moving forward. Establishing the run is the way to do exactly that. Look for Freeman to break out in a big way for the first time in 2019.

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What BetQL’s Model Says 

BetQL’s NFL Model labels the Falcons -2.5 as a ★★ bet and Atlanta’s -140 moneyline as a ★★★★ bet, reinforcing the belief that the visiting team will earn the win. Judging by the 51.5 consensus point total, it’s projecting as one of the highest-scoring games on the slate. 

Find out which teams BetQL’s NFL Model favors in those Week 6 contests!