Free NFL Pick: Baltimore at Atlanta 11-11-2010

November 10, 2010


Baltimore Ravens at Atlanta Falcons

Thursday November 11th, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Line: Atlanta -1


We could not ask for a better Thursday night matchup. The 6-2 Ravens could be the best team in the NFL. They have endured a brutal schedule thus far and this week will be no different. They travel to Atlanta to take on the red hot Falcons, who are also 6-2. We will see a clash between some of the best teams each conference has to offer and the one point spread could easily become a pick’em game by kickoff.

Keys to the Game:

  • Michael Turner has been held under 50 yards twice this year. Each have resulted in a Falcons loss. The Falcons rely heavily on Turner to open up the offense. After getting off to a slow start, he has rushed for 100 yards four out of the last six games and has done so in each of his last two outings. Turner will see a Ravens defense that allows 104.8 yards a game on the ground, but plays more stingy than their numbers indicate.
  • Haloti Ngata is one of the best 3-4 nose tackles in the entire game. Ray Lewis is able to roam free while Ngata punishes centers and gets push into the backfield. While he leads the Ravens with five sacks this season, Ngata’s contribution to the team will not show up on a stat sheet. In a 3-4, it is imperative that the nose is ruthless and dominates the line of scrimmage. The interior offensive line becomes so wrapped up in Ngata, they aren’t able to get to the second level. If Ray Lewis is able to come free, it is going to be a long day for Michael Turner.
  • Fabian Washington and Chris Carr don’t stand a chance against Roddy White. While both are capable corners and speed is not the issue, Roddy White is an unstoppable machine. White has racked up 796 yards already this season. What is even more telling of how much the Falcons rely on White is his 88 targets this season. Matt Ryan makes no secret about who his favorite target is. While teams know he is going to get the ball, they have still allowed him to rack up huge numbers. The Ravens need to call upon Ed Reed to roll over in coverage when possible or White could produce his 5th 100 yard game of the season.
  • Ray Rice doesn’t have the same effect on the Ravens productivity as he had last year. While his numbers are down, his performance doesn’t have a correlation with the outcome of games. He averages 71.83 yards a game in their six wins and 87.5 yards a game in their two losses. While Rice contributes more to the offense than just running the ball -catching the ball out of the backfield well and being solid in pass protection- the Ravens have improved in their passing game. The key to Baltimore’s success is off season acquisition Anquan Boldin.
  • The Ravens have historically had average to below below average receivers. Derek Mason has been adequate, but Boldin is possibly the most talented receiver they have had in franchise history. For a team that prides itself on toughness and grit, the Ravens could not have found a more perfect match than a receiver like Boldin. He was never given the respect he deserved in Arizona -playing second fiddle to Larry Fitzgerald- but has become Joe Flacco’s favorite receiver, amassing 546 yards already this season. Having a receiver like Boldin has allowed the Ravens to open up the playbook and add a new dimension to their offense, without losing their physicality.
  • Both teams have franchise left tackles and dominant pass rushing defensive ends. Baltimore left tackle Michael Oher will be going up against John Abraham, who has racked up six sacks this season. Atlanta’s Sam Baker will have his hands full against Terrell Suggs, who has 4.5 sacks this season and constantly finds himself around the quarterback. While I don’t see either tackle letting their respective opponent having a multiple sack day, both matchups will be fun to watch as the game goes on.

Wrap Up:

The Ravens are 2-2 on the road, but their losses came against Pittsburgh and the New York Jets. Both teams are playing outstanding football and the Falcons are undefeated at home, but the Ravens should be able to break that streak on Thursday. They have too many weapons in too many places. Ray Lewis and the Ravens will be on a mission to prove to the nation that they are the best team in football. The Falcons will be trying to prove they can compete against anyone in the NFL. If you don’t have NFL Network, this might be a great time to contact your cable company.

Free NFL Pick: Baltimore +1

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