The San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons will square off this afternoon in the 2013 NFC Championship at the Georgia Dome (3:00pm ET start time, FOX). The latest NFL Odds at offshore bookmaker Sportsbook.ag have the visiting 49ers listed as a -4.5 against the spread and -200 moneyline favorite ($200 wins $100). Atlanta is drawing +170 moneyline odds to win its ninth home game this season. Today’s conference championship game total is set at 49 points.
If the Falcons past playoff failures were not enough motivation, perhaps, being an historic home underdog in a championship game will do the trick. Of course, there is always the Super Bowl to provide a little impetus as well.
The big question, though, is this: is Atlanta deserving of such disrespect from the odds makers and betting public? Most of the evidence points to no.
The Falcons home success under Mike Smith is no secret; they have just eight losses (includes playoffs) at the Georgia Dome since he took over as head coach in 2008. This season was no different with Atlanta procuring a 7-1 home record during the regular season. Despite those numbers, San Francisco is the pick of most bettors (according to Pregame’s SportsbookSpy 64-percent of spread bettors are backing the Niners) and pundits, with a large number expecting a 49ers route.
The Falcons most definitely have a perception problem, an issue which has roots in their ‘soft’ schedule and poor defensive numbers (ranked 24th in yards per game allowed at 365.5). But too much is being made of Atlanta’s warts.
Matt Ryan and company did post a 4-0 record against winning teams this season (includes last week’s divisional round win over Seattle) and they also went 2-1 against New Orleans and Dallas, two talented clubs that most regarded as underachievers.
And, while Atlanta did yield a lot of yardage to its opposition, it managed to do a good job of keeping teams out of the end zone. The Falcons 18.7 points per game allowed average was the fifth best mark in the league.
Atlanta, which finished the regular season +12 in turnover margin, was particularly good at checking teams in check at the Georgia Dome. The 28 points it gave up in last week’s meeting with the Seahawks matched a season high; the other eight visitors averaged a meager 17 points per contest. And, oh by the way, those eight visitor’s average offensive ranking (yards per game) was a stellar 12.1 (9.3 if one were to toss out the Cardinals 32nd ranking).
None of this is meant to demean the 49ers, who are a well rounded team, but consider it more a word of caution. San Francisco may well win today’s game, but dismissing the Falcons, who got a major monkey off their back last weekend, could be a big mistake.
Free Pick: Take the Falcons +4.5.
San Francisco 49ers vs Atlanta Falcons NFL Odds:
San Francisco 49ers -4.5 (-115), Over 49 (-110), -200 (Moneyline)
Atlanta Falcons +4.5 (-105), Under 49 (-110), +170 (Moneyline)
NFL Free Picks: San Francisco at Atlanta Betting
What pro football bettors need to know about San Francisco 49ers at Atlanta Falcons on Sunday (1/20/13) - a free pick from Pregame.com's Bryan Leonard with Marco D'Angelo and host Scott Spreitzer.
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