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The Atlanta Falcons host Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game at 3pm est. The 49ers are currently favored by -4 points at 5 Dimes Sportsbook with a total of 48.5. The game opened at -3 at most sportsbooks however this line was a low as pick em at one well known offshore book before being flooded with 49ers money which eventually pushed this line to where it currently sits. When is the last time a team went 13-3 in the regular season, clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs and ended up an underdog in the Championship game?
It's important to remember exactly what a pointspread is in a spot like this. It's not the number that oddsmakers feel is the difference between these two teams. It's the number that the oddsmakers feel that the PUBLIC thinks is the difference between these two teams. Bettors are heavily influenced by a teams most recent results. What the public saw on Saturday night was a 49ers team with Kaepernick that looked unstoppable. They also chose to concentrate on a Falcon team that let the Seahawks come back and take a lead as opposed to the Falcon team that shut out the Seahawks in the 1st half of their game.
The correct line here, the actual difference between the two, is probably closer to pick em. In fact, there are at least 50 different power rating sites, some well known, such as Sagarin from the USA Today, and other lesser known but equally as good, scattered across the net. None of them have the 49ers favored by -4 points. Very few have the 49ers by 3. Most are anywhere from pk to -2, with an equal number of those having the FALCONS favored by 2. The oddsmakers were hoping to attract balanced action by posting the line that they did here. Unfortunately for them, it looks as though they failed. The betting trends at sportsbook.ag show a whopping 78% of the action in this one is on the visiting 49ers!
The 49ers are the better team here. They have the better defense and Kaepernick really adds a whole new dimension to that offense. But you can't cherry pick which games to look at in recent history when drawing that conclusion. Sure, the 49ers looked unstoppable last week against the Packers. But what about 3 weeks ago when they were blown off the field in Seattle? How good was Kaepernick back in early December when he and his teammates lost to the Rams 16-13? How good was that 49er defense in the 2nd half in New England or the entire Seattle game?
The Falcons yards per point differential at home is +8.2 (14 offense and 20.2 defense). The 49ers numbers on the road are 13.9 and 15.6 for a +1.7. Season to date numbers also favor the Falcons by a similar margin. When we run the game through our model, it comes up 24-21 in favor of the 49ers when using season to date data, 31-28 Falcons when using the last 5 games only and 28-25 Falcons when using the last 7 games only. Sure, Kaepernick has only started since week 11, but the numbers don't get any better with him in there.
The Falcons will have to contain Kaepernick, but it's not as if he is Superman, regardless of how good he looked last week. It's not as if the NFL has never seen a QB with his skills. It's not as if this Falcons team hasn't had to deal with QB's that can move. They beat RG3, Cam Newton, Michael Vick and Russell Wilson this year. Oh, and if it's that Falcon pass defense your worried about, they also beat Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Drew Brees and Eli Manning.
Kaepernick has only started since week 11 this year. He made a few appearances last year. He's a work in progress. The kid will still make mistakes. He had a hard time dealing with the noise when they lost to Seattle a few weeks ago showing obvious confusion at times. You think the Dome in Atlanta will be loud this week?
Look, we aren't saying that the Falcons are a slam dunk here. In fact we acknowledged above that the 49ers are in fact the better team. But do not be surprised if Kaepernick ends up being a liability in this game as opposed to an asset. He may not be a rookie in the traditional sense, since he played in a few spots last year, but he is a rookie in terms of game experience and he's been confused in more than a couple of games this year. (Rams, Seahawks). Add in the crowd noise and the pressure and magnitude of this game, and who knows what will happen. You need a big time QB to be successful at this level, in this game. It's been proven time and time again. Matt Ryan has the playoff experience and now a playoff win. Kaepernick may or may not prove to be a big time QB. Time will tell.
The Falcons need John Abraham healthy here. If he's healthy and the Falcons can contain Kaepernick to a degree and make him play the majority of the game in the pocket, this could be a very interesting game. We're going to go ahead and buck the public here. The 49ers looked fantastic last week and when coupled with the 2nd half collapse of the Falcons it has created some value with the home team. Falcons +4
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