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Falcons vs. Cardinals Gambling Odds Preview/Pick

NFL: CARDS OFFER HOME DOG VALUE

The Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals kickoff Wild Card Weekend in grand style with a 4:30 pm ET start on Saturday.

Atlanta is a 1.5-point road favorite and the Over/Under is 51. In addition to the game and Total wagering, we also have our Primetime Prop for this contest.

Pick the ‘First Scoring Play’ prop for this game and if it hits, and the same scoring play occurs again any time in the third quarter, your winnings will be doubled, up to $100.00 for this specific prop.   Arizona (9-7) is the host and the #4 seed, despite being two games worse in the won-lost record than Atlanta (11-5).

Ken Whisenhunt’s team spent the second half on cruise control after wrapping up the division early. However, they did win their season finale versus Seattle to complete their home record at 6-2 straight-up and 5-3 ATS

Despite scoring 30.2 PPG at home, Arizona plays as dogs to a Falcons team that rebounded from 4-12 in 2007. They split eight road games this year, but scored 10.4 PPG less there than at home. Over the last three seasons, Atlanta is just 2-11 ATS versus good offenses gaining more than 5.65 yards per play.

The quarterback matchup in Arizona features a Super Bowl MVP and two-time NFL MVP with seven playoff starts under his belt (Kurt Warner) and a rookie (Matt Ryan) learning the ropes on the fly.

On paper, the outcome appears to be a no-brainer considering the weapons Warner works with, as Larry Fitzgerald (96 catches, 1,431 yards, 12 TD’s), Anquan Boldin (89 catches, 1,038 yards, 11 TD’s) and Steve Breaston (77 catches, 1,006 yards, 3 TD’s) form perhaps the best wide receiver trio in the NFL.

The Falcons nearly won the NFC South and hit the playoffs riding their first three-game winning streak of the season. Michael Turner, the best free-agent signing of last off-season, has run for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns, while Jerious Norwood (805 total yards, six touchdowns) has been one of the better backups around.

A 34-21 home win over Seattle may have restored some confidence to an Arizona team that’s lost four of its last seven games, including three by at least 21 points, but home teams aren’t guaranteed wins in the Wild-Card round. Over the last four seasons, hosts are just 8-8.

Playoff teams built for the long haul generally revolve around a strong running game, and stopping the run, but that’s exactly where the Cardinals come up short. Edgerrin James was benched in Week 9, and his replacement, rookie Tim Hightower, was largely ignored. In seven starts, he topped 13 carries or 35 yards just once and may be passed over by James again after the veteran’s 100 yards on 14 carries in Week 17.

Ignoring the running game may have paid off against the deadbeats of the NFC West, against whom the Cardinals averaged 30 PPG, but teams with playoff aspirations, namely the Giants, Eagles, Vikings and Patriots, saw through that approach. They pounded out an average of 173.5 rushing yards per game and wrestled control of the game away early.

Home underdogs are 4-2 straight-up and 5-1 ATS in this round since 1995. The Cardinals are actually the team with the better defense. In fact, they have better yards per play stats on both sides of the ball. The Falcons’ 5.8 yards per play allowed is nowhere near playoff-caliber. I look for last week’s big win to give the hosts the momentum needed to pull the upset.

Falcons vs. Cardinals Pick: Arizona +1.5

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