It’s hard to find two teams currently sitting in a playoff spot that look to be in more trouble than the Indianapolis Colts (4-5, 2-2 Away) and Atlanta Falcons (6-3, 3-1 Home). But one of these teams will emerge from this weekend with a much-needed win when they clash at the Georgia Dome this Sunday (1:00 PM Eastern).
The Falcons opened the season like gangbusters, racing out to a 5-0 record. But since then, they’ve been nothing short of awful. Atlanta’s only win in the past month came over a Tennessee Titans team that was starting Zach Mettenberger at quarterback. Losers of three of their last four, the Falcons hot start has still left them with a two-game lead in the wild card race. But with a cluster of 4-5 teams poised for wins this week, the Dirty Birds need to get their act together if they don’t want this lead to evaporate.
The Colts found out they could be without pivot Andrew Luck for the next few weeks. However, the 40-year old backup, Matt Hasselbeck has performed well in spot starts already, so there was little reason for concern. At least that was the case, until Jacksonville and Houston both went on little win streaks to make the top of the awful AFC South a very crowded place. Now the Colts will look to get a win against an NFC opponent for the first time this season.
With Luck out, Indy should continue the trend of leaning on the ground game and aging running back Frank Gore this week. Gore is not busting out huge gains, but he’s gotten 50 carries in the Colts last two games and kept the offense balanced in what was the team’s best performances of the year so far. And while Hasselbeck may not offer the upside that Luck does, he has yet to commit a turnover this season, so he should be able to keep Atlanta’s offense from getting any short fields.
Matt Ryan and company could also improve at protecting the rock: the Falcons have 12 turnovers in the last five games. The offense has been relying almost solely on receiver Julio Jones and running back Devonta Freeman, and while they’ve been putting up tons of yardage, the team needs to find more help scoring. The red zone offense has been a dismal 36 percent over the last three games and the Falcons are averaging just 18.4 points a game over the last five.
Dan Quinn has improved this Falcons defense holding opponents to 21.1 a game; but they can’t win games without getting more help from the offense or scoring themselves.
Both teams are coming off a bye week, so the play should be sharper on both sides of the ball. But Atlanta has lost it’s last five games against the spread and Indianapolis is 4-0 ATS this season as an underdog. Roll with the Colts this weekend.
Pick: Colts +6.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)