SharpClarke's Best Week 12 NFL Bet: ATL @ WAS Matchup Spotlight

Nov 25, 2022
Best Week 12 NFL Bet: ATL @ WAS

This week's matchup has some significant season-long importance. With the Giants stumbling (and some other potential openings), the seventh playoff spot is potentially up for grabs in the NFC. Two teams that would like to take this spot face off this week in Washington, and I see an interesting matchup that can potentially be exploited. The market line is likely fair based on performance to date, but matchup advantages on both sides could lead to some value here. Let's dive into what I am seeing.

My Numbers

Atlanta: 26th (Offense: 12th, Defense: 32nd)
Washington: 21st (Offense: 29th, Defense: 9th)
Baseline: WAS -4.5, -190 Moneyline

Week 12's Best NFL Bets!

Matchup Breakdown

ATL Offense vs. WAS Defense

The surface-level narrative here favors Washington. The Commanders have one of the NFL's best rushing defenses and the Falcons are one of the most run-heavy teams in the league. That would theoretically lead to an advantage for Washington. But what I see on the field leads me to the opposite conclusion. Washington plays a zone-heavy defense without blitzing. The reason their run defense is strong is that they play very aggressively on the defensive front. They attack the inside and consistently get to running backs up the middle. But counterintuitively, this type of aggressive run defense can actually be a liability when the opposing team's ground game is built on misdirection and quarterback options. Marcus Mariota will force the defensive front to be less aggressive because he is a true threat to break it to the outside and create plays on the run. The Bears did this a few weeks back when they ran for 237 yards on 37 attempts on this defense. Mariota is no Justin Fields, but the scheme will be equally beneficial.

The Commanders also do not blitz and rely on their front four to pressure the quarterback. This, again, works against immobile quarterbacks like Davis Mills and Kirk Cousins. But if they try to keep contain with just the defensive line and to keep up with a mobile quarterback without forcing him to make quick decisions, they will be playing sub-optimally against Mariota. I expect Mariota and the offense to move the ball better than expected based on the metrics of the matchup. Recall how the Falcons played in their first week against New Orleans. Before suffering myriad injuries, the Saints had a similar defense to the Commanders in structure and talent. Yet, the Falcons moved the ball nearly at will. Now, this is still a tough defense and it won't be easy. But that's built into the line, giving a team with a below-average (at best) offense a 4.5- or 4-point spread. If the Falcons can at least establish something on the ground and avoid mistakes and negative plays, then the Falcons' offense will have done its part of the job.

WAS Offense vs. ATL Defense

Washington is coming off one of its best offensive performances of the season against Houston. Taylor Heinicke took care of the ball and made enough throws to bury them in the first half. But it didn't take much because they started the game with a pick-six on defense. They actually only led one touchdown drive after that. A week before, they beat the Eagles because they converted an impressive 12 third downs. Again, the offense took advantage of a bad run defense and Heinicke did enough to finish the job. But these conservative game plans hide the fact that Heinicke is an erratic quarterback. He particularly struggles against zone defenses, because his aggressive approach benefits when he can throw into single coverage and let his receiver win. His aggressiveness can be a liability against zone because he will throw into windows that close quickly against a zone. Even against Minnesota, his biggest play of the game came when he threw recklessly into triple coverage and the referee tripped over a defender that likely would have made the interception.

With A.J. Terrell back and healthy, the Falcons have a player who can at least cause some trouble in the secondary. Washington might be able to run consistently, but I would imagine it would be the "consistent 3-4 yard gains" variety and not big plays. They only averaged 3.1 yards per rush in their win against Philadelphia and 3.8 yards per rush against Houston. So, even though Atlanta is vulnerable on the ground, Washington would still be choppy if they opt for a run-heavy approach. Between Heinicke's lack of consistency and an over-reliance on a non-explosive run game, the Commanders are unlikely to move the ball at will here. They will surely score, but will likely have a below-average game when compared to what you would hope from an offense going against a defense like Atlanta's. In other words, I expect the Falcons to have an above-average game on defense.


Both offenses opt for a run-heavy approach, but the Falcons show more explosiveness early. Still, they fail on some key third downs, stalling drives. Both teams have intermittent success, leading to a 10-10 halftime score. In the second half, Heinicke makes a key mistake that allows the Falcons to keep the pressure on and Heinicke is unable to deliver in crunch time, even against a bad defense.

Final Score Prediction: ATL 23, WAS 20

Market Evaluation

This game opened at WAS -3 or WAS -3.5, but was bet up eagerly to WAS -4 or WAS -4.5. The books respected this early action, and the line topped out at WAS -4.5 and settled around WAS -4. The surface-level metrics support this adjustment by the books, but I don't think they account for some of the nuances of this matchup, as described above. I am very comfortable with this market movement but believe the original number was correct. I would anticipate somewhat balanced action at -4, with sharp bettors on both sides. That's my favorite type of game to bet so I have already fired off my bet at ATL +4.5, and would still play it at ATL +4.

Best Bets

ATL +4 (-110) (DraftKings) (FanDuel) (BetMGM)

ATL ML (+175) (BetMGM) (Caesars)

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