NFL 2018 Season - Week 16
 

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Looking Bad
by Dennis Ranahan

If I would have told you last August that the Atlanta Falcons were going to be favored over the New York Giants by four points to close out Week Seven National Football League action on a Monday night, it would not have seemed out-of-the ordinary. With that knowledge, one might have assessed that the Falcons, who won the NFC two years ago and advanced to the playoffs last year, were having another good year.

As for the four-point underdog Giants, one could have concluded that against a good Falcons team New York only getting four points on the spread could indicate that they were having an above average season too.

Both assumptions would have been wrong.

The Falcons are favored by four points over the Giants tonight, but it is not because they are good, it is because they haven’t been very good while New York has been horrible.

The Giants have won only one game this season, and beat the spread only twice in six decisions. The Falcons have won only two games, and those are the only two contests in which they beat the spread, and, like the Giants, have a 2-4 point spread record.

When two bad teams meet, taking the points is most often the best call.

Which brings us to this question … Are these two bad teams?

The New York Giants made a bold move in last year’s draft when they opted to take runningback Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft instead of selecting USC Quarterback Sam Darnold as the heir apparent to Eli Manning. The Giants veteran quarterback is in his 15th professional season and since becoming the starter in 2005 the Giants have had only four losing campaigns.

Only problem with that, is that those four losing campaigns have been suffered in past five seasons. In the middle of those five losing campaigns was an 11-5 season two years ago in which New York landed a postseason playoff berth, giving Giants fans hope Manning could lead them to the playoffs again.

This year, under first-year head coach Pat Shurmur, the Giants appeared to set themselves up for a big season while arming Manning with quality skill position players. Wide receiver Odell Beckham wanted the big contract with a promise to perform, so far, he is performing more with his mouth than his football skills after getting the big bucks.

Barkley has played well in his rookie season, but his efforts are mooted by a horrible defense and team comradeship akin to the first awkward week at a kids summer camp.

Thing is, there is still a lot of talent sprinkled throughout the Giants roster and Manning, who does have two Super Bowl wins to his credit, could navigate a solid second half of the season.

In Atlanta, the Falcons had been to the Super Bowl two years ago and advanced to the playoffs last season while giving the eventual Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles their most challenging postseason game.

All seemed well this year when they drove down the field in the Thursday night opener against the Eagles just like they had last January in the playoffs. Problem is, for the Falcons, the result was the same. They didn’t punch it in last season or in this year’s opener, and the loss in Philadelphia was just a precursor for a lot of bad things to come. A win over the Carolina Panthers in second week action was important to keep them in the thick of the NFC South Division race, but consecutive losses to the New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers buried them in their division cellar.

If the Falcons were to climb back into their race, it would have to start with a victory over the Giants tonight. All three competitors ahead of the Falcons in the NFC North Division have already won this week, the Saints over Baltimore, Panthers over Philadelphia and Buccaneers over Cleveland. The Saints currently lead the NFC South Division with a 5-1 mark, and the Panthers are one game off that pace. With only two wins, even with a victory tonight the Falcons will remain in last place in their division race, but at least within striking distance.

We start the night with two bad teams. While the Falcons are the most likely team in action tonight to shake the poor season start and make a run, laying points with a team that has not yet put it together is high risk. And, betting the Giants with all their problems both on and off the field is not a side that generates confidence.

If I had too, and thank goodness I don’t, I’d take the home team tonight and lay the points.