In what promises to be a fierce battle of the birds in Week 13, the Atlanta Falcons host the Baltimore Ravens. Game time is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 2, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fans in a majority of markets will be able to watch the game on CBS.
Oddsmakers currently list the Falcons as 1-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 48.5 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 13 betting odds in the NFL.
The Falcons have officially reached the point in their season when they have no margin for error. Atlanta has lost three games in a row to drop them to 4-7 on the season. They are two games out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC and need to jump over five teams in the final five weeks of the season to get there.
Needless to say, things are looking bleak, and Atlanta’s schedule isn’t particularly friendly late in the season. After hosting the Ravens on Sunday, the Falcons hit the road for three of their final four games. If Atlanta is going to keep their slim hopes alive and give some meaning to their late-season games, they have to beat the Ravens.
Baltimore, on the other hand, is starting to feel good about their playoff chances. After a rough stretch in the middle of the season, the Ravens have won back-to-back games with Lamar Jackson starting at quarterback for the injured Joe Flacco. If the season ended right now, the Ravens would just barely sneak into the final wild-card spot in the AFC at 6-5 via a tiebreaker with the Colts.
However, in addition to being tied with the Colts, there are four other teams just one game back of Baltimore in the standings, so they don’t have much margin for error. Baltimore also faces a challenging schedule down the stretch. The Ravens will play three of their last five games on the road, including trips out west to play the Chiefs and Chargers. With a loss to Atlanta, the Ravens could spiral quickly with the Chiefs on deck next week.
In a virtual tossup, it’s tough going against the home team, especially when they need a win in order to keep any playoff hope alive. But the Ravens are moving in the right direction while the Falcons are stuck in a downward spiral they can’t escape. With the betting line in this game largely irrelevant, I’ll take my chances with the Ravens in a virtual PK.
For most of the season, Atlanta’s offense has at least given them a chance to win games, especially at home. However, the Falcons have been held under 20 points in three straight games. That’s particularly concerning with their last two games coming inside a dome, where Matt Ryan and the passing game should be able to thrive. They’ve also fallen to 2-3 at home this season, which doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.
A lack of balance on offense finally appears to be catching up to Atlanta. The Falcons still can’t get anything going on the ground, which is allowing teams to tee off on Ryan with their pass rush. Atlanta allowed six sacks last week against the Saints, largely negating Ryan’s 377 passing yards. Unless the Falcons can find a way to get Tevin Coleman and the ground game up and running, Ryan will continue to face constant pressure, leaving him vulnerable to sacks and turnovers.
Moreover, the Baltimore defense is not one the Falcons want to see at a time when protecting the quarterback is a problem. The Ravens have 32 sacks this season, averaging nearly three per game. They are also giving up just under four yards per carry against the run. Odds are, they will stuff any attempt the Falcons make to run the ball and focus on getting after Ryan.
On the other side of the ball, all signs point to Jackson starting for the third straight week. As a passer, Jackson has had some problems in his first two starts, throwing three interceptions to just one touchdown. However, the Baltimore running game has suddenly taken off. Jackson has personally rushed for 190 yards over the past two games. Equally important, rookie running back Gus Edwards has come out of nowhere and has been the perfect running mate for Jackson. Those two are allowing the Ravens to control games on the ground and score 58 points over the last two games.
Given the play of Atlanta’s defense this year, it’s tough to envision that changing this week. During their current three-game losing streak, the Falcons have been shredded on the ground by the Browns, Cowboys, and Saints. Dallas was able to do it without getting much out of Dak Prescott on the ground. With a running quarterback added to the equation, the Falcons could be in trouble.
Admittedly, I still worry a little about Jackson. This will be his first road start in the NFL. He’s also been vulnerable to turnovers. That being said, the Baltimore defense should be able to keep Ryan and the Falcons in check, so the Ravens won’t need to score a ton of points to win this game. In a virtual PK, I’ll take the team that hasn’t lost three in a row, which is Baltimore.