Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 22, 2013 at 7:00 PM
ESPN had been hoping that their final Monday Night telecast of the season was going to feature a thriller with playoff impact. After all, the Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers played last year for the NFC Championship as the #1 and #2 seeds. Surely they’d both be in the hunt with two weeks to go in the 2013 season.
Didn’t work out that way. The Falcons fell flat out of the gate and never got off the ground. The 49ers have been a bit of a disappointment themselves even though they’re still on the short list of legitimate Super Bowl hopefuls. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn’t taken the big step forward everyone was expecting. The team as a whole may have taken one step back while division rival Seattle took two steps forward.
So, the storyline tonight will be about the final game being played in Candlestick Park. Hey, the announcers have to talk about something for three hours! Well, this is ESPN. Make it 20 hours counting pregame and postgame chatter.
Will the Atlanta Falcons turn in a surprise performance that ruins the farewell party and gives the talking heads something else to focus on? That’s what Las Vegas sports bettors care more about. Let’s run our standard preview numbers to see if a surprise may be in store.
Won-Lost Records (strength of schedule)
Atlanta: 4-10 (#4 schedule in USA Today)
San Francisco: 10-4 (#10 schedule in USA Today)
A lot of 4’s and 10’s there! It’s important to remember that Atlanta is battle tested against a brutal schedule. Part of their trouble this season came as a result of falling back to earth just as their schedule became impossible. They won’t be intimidated, and may have revenge on their minds after last year’s home playoff loss.
Atlanta: 5.4 on offense, 6.1 on defense
San Francisco: 5.2 on offense, 4.8 on defense
That’s a fairly wide discrepancy, with Atlanta at -0.7 and San Francisco at +0.4. And, strength of schedule isn’t enough to make up for hit. Atlanta isn’t as bad as their 4-10 record would suggest. But, they’re clearly the lesser of the two teams by quite a bit. The question is….are they really two touchdowns worse like the market is suggesting?
San Francisco: +8
If you believe that turnovers are random, then that equalizes the picture fairly quickly. Atlanta has been playing with some bad luck this year, while San Francisco has caught some breaks. You regulars know that we don’t subscribe to that theory. Atlanta’s negative turnover differential is a natural result of having to pass all the time because of their terrible running game. San Francisco plays conservatively under head coach Jim Harbaugh. They had a solid number last year too. Atlanta will have to play mistake-free football to have a chance for an upset, and will at least have to hold it to one or maybe two turnovers to cover the tall number.
Atlanta: 5-9 ATS
San Francisco: 10-4 ATS
Can you believe that a Super Bowl team is covering so many pointspreads?! You always hear that oddsmakers adjust to what everyone sees on TV. Well, a lot of times they don’t! The best teams are often underrated because oddsmakers are just as prone as squares to fall for “the due theory.” Atlanta’s collapse has burned money for backers, which isn’t a surprise.
Current Line: San Francisco by 14, total 46
The line has been rising all week from an opener of San Francisco -10.5. Sharps seem convinced that San Francisco is going to show up to play while Atlanta has thrown in the towel. Maybe that’s the case. Or, maybe this line really should be more like San Francisco -10…or even San Francisco -7 because the Falcons are going to play with revenge on their minds.
JIM HURLEY has been working very closely with his sources to find the right read on this game. He knows you want to make one last Monday Night score this NFL season…particularly since it’s two nights before Christmas. You can purchase the final word for Monday right here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you also check out offerings in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl matching East Carolina and Ohio, and a busy NBA card.
If you have any questions, talk to the NETWORK representative in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155.
Here’s the Christmas Week preview schedule for the coming days here in the NOTEBOOK…
Tuesday: Hawaii Bowl with Oregon State vs. Boise State
Wednesday: Special Christmas Day NBA Previews on an off-day for football
Thursday: Poinsettia Bowl with Utah State vs. Northern Illinois
Friday: Fight Hunger Bowl with Washington vs. BYU
Saturday: Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl with Michigan and Kansas State
Sunday: NFL Prime Time Showdown on NBC
Say goodbye to Candlestick Park, and HELLO BIG MONEY by hooking up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!