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The Atlanta Falcons will look to avoid a second straight NFL betting defeat at home against a divisional rival when they take on the Baltimore Ravens on MNF.
Matchup: Baltimore Ravens @ Atlanta Falcons
Date: Thursday, November 11th, 8:20 ET
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Game Line: Atlanta -1
Ravens Notes: Last week, the Ravens finally got their defense rolling, holding the Miami Dolphins to just ten points after two straight bad games before their bye week. Baltimore is back atop the AFC North at 6-2 and is tied for the best record in football. With SS Ed Reed back in the fold, there is nothing that this defense can't do. Reed picked off three passes in his first two games back from an injury that cost him the first half of Baltimore's season. The Ravens are only a middle of the road offensive team statistically speaking, as the team ranks between No. 11 and No. 15 in virtually every major category on this side of the ball. However, it seems like just a matter of time before QB Joe Flacco, WR Anquan Boldin, RB Ray Rice, and the gang all shine at one time. Flacco is on pace to throw for nearly 4,000 yards this season, as he has 1,917 yards and 12 TDs on the season. He is hooking up with Boldin on a regular basis. Though the former Florida State Seminole only had two catches for 28 yards last week, he still has 40 grabs for 546 yards and five scores this year. Rice is the more interesting player for the Ravens, as he has 606 yards on the ground and 236 through the air. However, he only has two TDs. Last year, RB Willis McGahee was stealing touchdowns from him, but this year, McGahee only has four scores. DT Haloti Ngata is having himself a Pro Bowl type of season, as he has five sacks already on the campaign. DE Terrell Suggs has 4.5. On the injury front, the only man that is out of the lineup that will be back at some point over the course of the season is SS Tom Zbikowski, who lost his starting job two weeks ago when Reed came back anyway.
Falcons Notes: This is quite the interesting battle, especially for QB Matt Ryan. Ryan really isn't used to going against these ferocious types of defenses, and the last time he did, the Pittsburgh Steelers kept him out of the end zone for the entire game in a 15-9 defeat in the Steel City. However, "Matty Ice" is always a warrior at home, and he has led his team to a number of seemingly improbable results in the Georgia Dome during his day, particularly when the games are at their biggest. Ryan is having the best season of his career, having thrown for 1,949 yards and 13 TDs during the first half of the year. He is being helped out quite a bit by WR Roddy White, who is one of the top receivers in the NFL. White is in the Top 5 in the league in receiving yards with 796, and he has five scores as well. The ground game has been great as well, as RB Michael Turner and RB Jason Snelling have combined for 974 yards this year to go with seven combined TDs. The problem with last year's Atlanta team that narrowly missed the playoffs was that it really couldn't defend the pass, and that's exactly what is happening this year. The Falcons rank just No. 26 in the NFL against aerial assaults, and that was a problem that was supposed to be remedied by bringing in DB Dunta Robinson on the first day of free agency. Alas, Robinson has busted, and so has the Atlanta secondary.
The Final Word: You won't find a more evenly contested matchup than this one. Are the Ravens the best team in the NFL? We tend to believe so. But is there a team more difficult to beat on the road than the Falcons? That might be true as well. However, in spite of the fact that the Ravens are playing this game on just three days of rest and had to blow a day to travel, we think that they are just barely scratching the surface of their abilities, and if this is true, Atlanta and the rest of the NFL badly need to watch their backs. This could be a very dangerous team, especially if it can move to 7-2 on Thursday night as we are calling for in our NFL picks.
Free NFL Football Picks: Baltimore +1
Prediction: Baltimore 23 – Atlanta 20