NFC Division Leaders Clash: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons

Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia

Sunday, November 30, 2014, 4:05 pm Eastern, TV: Fox, NFL Sunday Ticket
Opening Line: Arizona -1 1/2 (-115)
Current Line: Arizona -1 1/2 (-115)
Opening Total: 45
Current Total: 45
Opening Money Line: Cardinals -150 / Falcons +130 
Current Money Line: Cardinals -130 / Falcons +110

The Cardinals and Falcons meet Sunday in a battle of NFC division leaders.
The Cardinals and Falcons meet Sunday in a battle of NFC division leaders.

Although one team is 9-2 and tied for the best record in the league and the other is 4-7, both the Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons lead their respective divisions. The two teams meet Sunday in Atlanta. The 9-2 Cardinals lead the NFC West by a game and a half over the 8-4 Seattle Seahawks. The 4-7 Falcons are tied with the New Orleans Saints for first in the terrible NFC South where every team is at least 3 games under .500.

Since 2001, Atlanta leads the series 5-3 against Arizona. The Cardinals won last year in Arizona 27-13 to snap a two game losing streak to the Falcons. Arizona also won a wild card playoff game at home against Atlanta in 2009.

Arizona is coached by Bruce Arians. The only losses for the Cardinals came at the Denver Broncos 41-20 and Seattle Seahawks 19-3 last week. Arizona had won 6 straight games before the Seattle loss last week. The Cardinals have home wins over the San Diego Chargers 18-17, San Francisco 49ers 23-14, Washington Redskins 30-20, Philadelphia Eagles 24-20, St. Louis Rams 31-14 and Detroit Lions 14-6. Arizona also has road wins at the New York Giants 25-14, Oakland Raiders 24-13 and the Dallas Cowboys 28-17. The Cardinals are 8-3 ATS and the total is 3-7-1 this season. Arizona was a 7.5 point underdog against Seattle and the total was 42.

Atlanta is coached by Mike Smith. The Falcons started off the season 2-1 but then lost 5 straight games. All four Atlanta wins have come in the division. The Falcons have home wins over the Saints 37-34 in overtime and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 56-14, and road wins at the Buccaneers 27-17 and Carolina Panthers 19-17. Atlanta has road losses at the Cincinnati Bengals 24-10, Minnesota Vikings 41-28, New York Giants 30-20, Baltimore Ravens 29-7 and Detroit Lions 22-21 in London, plus home losses to the Chicago Bears 27-13 and Cleveland Browns 26-24 last week. The Cleveland loss snapped a two game winning streak for Atlanta. The Falcons are 4-7 ATS and the total is 4-7 this season. Atlanta was a 3 point favorite against the Browns and the total was 48.5.

Arizona is outscoring teams 22-18 this season. The Cardinals are #2 in points allowed and #18 in scoring. Arizona is averaging 321 yards per game on offense including 243 passing and 78 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals are #25 in total offense and #31 in rushing. On defense, Arizona is allowing 339 yards per game including 255 passing and 85 rushing yards per game. The Cardinals are #25 in pass defense and #3 in rush defense. Arizona is 73/163 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 58/155. The Cardinals have forced 25 sacks and allowed 19 this season. Arizona is +10 in turnovers. The Cardinals have three defensive and and one special teams touchdowns and have allowed a defensive touchdown.

What has made the Cardinals’ great start even more remarkable is the fact that Arizona has used 3 quarterbacks this season. Carson Palmer missed three games with a nerve issue in his throwing shoulder. He was replaced by Drew Stanton. Even rookie Logan Thomas took some snaps against the Broncos when Stanton was injured. Palmer tore his ACL three weeks ago against the Rams and is out for the season. Stanton will start for the rest of the season. Palmer  started the last 5 games before the injury. He has completed 62.9% of his passes for 1,626 yards with 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Stanton has thrown for 1,069 yards with 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, along with 18 carries for 36 yards. Thomas was only 1/8 against the Broncos but the one completion was an 81 yard touchdown pass.

Running back Andre Ellington has 196 carries for 648 yards with 3 touchdowns, plus 46 catches for 395 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is probable with a hip injury. Jonathan Dwyer and Stepfan Taylor will also get a few carries. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald has 46 catches for 658 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is questionable with a knee injury. John Brown has 37 catches for 529 yards and 5 touchdowns.  Michael Floyd has 26 catches for 454 yards and 4 touchdowns. Tight end John Carlson has 26 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown. Eight defensive players are questionable to out for the Cardinals including 5 linebackers.

Atlanta is being outscored 26-24 this season. Atlanta is #22 in points allowed and #12 in scoring. The Falcons are averaging 363 yards per game on offense including 270 passing yards and 93 rushing yards. Atlanta is #12 in total offense, #7 in passing and #26 in rushing. The Falcons are allowing 410 total yards per game on defense including 284 passing yards and 126 rushing yards. Atlanta is 24th or worse in all defensive categories including dead last in both total and pass defense. The Falcons are 64/150 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 73/153 on third and fourth down conversions. Atlanta has 14 sacks and has allowed 23. The Falcons are +4 in turnovers. Atlanta has 2 defensive/ special teams touchdowns and has allowed a defensive touchdown.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan has completed 65.1% of his passes for 3,066 yards with 19 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, plus 18 carries for 78 yards. Running back Steven Jackson has 141 carries for 501 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 16 catches for 97 yards. Devonta Freeman has 40 carries for 154 yards, along with 21 catches for 151 yards and a touchdown.  Antone Smith has 23 carries for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 13 catches for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns. He injured his knee against Carolina and is out for the season. Jacquizz Rodgers has 29 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown.

Julio Jones has 72 catches for 980 yards and 4 touchdowns. Roddy White has 56 catches for 662 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is questionable with an ankle injury. Devin Hester has 26 catches for 352 yards with a touchdown, plus a punt return for a touchdown. Harry Douglas has 21 catches for 223 yards and a touchdown. He is probable with a foot injury. Five offensive linemen are questionable or out as are six defensive players.

Arizona is 8-0 ATS against teams with losing home records, 4-0 after failing to cover, and after gaining less than 250 total yards, 5-1 in November and after scoring less than 15 points, 4-1 in week #13 and after rushing for less than 90 yards, 7-2 after a straight up loss, and in road games, 16-5 against NFC teams and against teams with losing records, 19-7 after a straight up loss by 14 points or more, and 20-8 overall. The over is 8-3 ATS in this series recently.

Atlanta is 37-14-3 ATS after allowing 150 rushing yards or more, 5-2 after rushing for less than 90 yards, 2-5 against teams with winning road records, and in November, 2-6 overall, 1-4 after failing to cover, and after allowing more than 250 passing yards, 1-5 after allowing more than 350 total yards, 0-5 after passing for more than 250 yards and on fieldturf.

Arizona’s impressive record is mostly smoke and mirrors. Still, they should be able to beat Atlanta by 2 points even on the road.

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