The Atlanta Falcons have managed to stick around in the NFC West race despite what many people perceive as a serious lack of personnel. They’ve been able to do it by going back to the basics. Some of that made play to their advantage on Sunday, as they take to the road to face the Cincinnati Bengals at 1 p.m. Eastern time at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.
The Falcons have managed to power their way to a 3-3 record, and it appears that Arthur Smith has definitely found his preferred way to go, calling rushing plays 52% of the time.
Understand that the Falcons have been able to do this without the services of Cordarrelle Patterson, the multiple threat who is out of action with a knee injury and might be out a couple more games. With Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley picking up the slack in the backfield, they can still execute. And in rushing DVOA and efficiency measurement, their ground game is first in the league, ahead of the Saints, Ravens, and Browns.
Is this sustainable? Marcus Mariota hasn’t thrown for a lot of yards, but he’s been relatively successful in keeping defenses honest because what he does throw the ball, he throws it downfield. Mariota averages ten intended air yards per attempt, which puts him among the top three in the NFL.
In the NFL odds that have been posted on this game by the folks at BetOnline, the Bengals are the favorites at home:-
Cincinnati Bengals – 6.5 (- 115)
Atlanta Falcons + 6.5 (- 105)
Over 47 points -114
Under 47 points – 106
When you look at the Cincinnati offense, you notice that Joe Burrow has not had the same kind of season he had last year. His bad throw percentage was very low in 2021, but he’s just 17th in that department this year. Having been sacked 51 times last year, he’s been taken to the deck 21 times already this season. It can be argued, however, that the Bengals have shown some improvement in terms of their ability to protect them. They gave up 13 sacks in the first two weeks and only eight since.
Also, after the disastrous opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he threw four interceptions, Burrow’s had 10 touchdown passes and only one pick since. Fans placing wagers at NFL betting sites were disappointed, but they kept their hopes high for Burrow.
Burrow’s exploits have usually looked even more impressive when you consider, but he’s gotten very little support out of the ground game, which ranks 27th in the league in rushing yards. So there is no question that Atlanta has to figure out a way to stop him as he goes downfield.
But what might be even more problematic is the Bengals’ ability to slow down the Atlanta ground attack. Losing defensive tackle DJ Reader has made things tougher. And Cincinnati has surrendered 383 yards on the ground in the last two weeks. This would appear to play right in two Atlanta’s wheelhouse. And we know that it’s a matter of the offensive line doing its job, as they have created more yards before contact than any other front-line in the NFL.
The Falcons have covered every game, including last week’s two-touchdown victory over the San Francisco 49ers. They ought to have enough to keep this relatively close. So we are taking the points.
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