Free Pick: ATL/ARZ

The NFL Playoffs kick off this Saturday with an NFC matchup that pits the surging 11-5 Atlanta Falcons vs. the explosive 9-7 Arizona Cardinals.

Will we give our free pick nod to the ground game of the Falcons or the high-flying passing attack of the Cardinals?

Our team of writers and handicappers break down the matchup and hand out a Free NFL Pick for the NFL Playoffs.

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Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made the Falcons –2.5 point spread favorite. The over/under for this game has been set at 51 total points.

Key Trend: The Falcons are 4-2 against the spread in their last six games on the road and 4-1 against the number in their last five games when playing Arizona. The total has also gone over in five of Atlanta’s six games when playing on the road against Arizona.

Key Stat: Atlanta is destroying teams on the ground this year, averaging 152.8 points per game, while the Cardinals are giving up 26.6 points per game and 110.2 rushing yards per contest.

Game Outlook: Outside of having to play on the road and against a fantastic passing offense, this is a great matchup for the Falcons. Look for Atlanta to keep the ball on the ground with Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood and attack the edges of Arizona’s defense just as Minnesota did in a win against the Cardinals a few weeks ago. That should open up the play action pass for rookie quarterback Matt Ryan to attack that weak Arizona secondary. The Falcons’ game plan will be to run the football effectively, milk the clock and keep Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston on the sidelines. Once they get a lead, they can turn defensive end John Abraham loose and allow him to get after Warner to help out the secondary. Defensively, the Falcons will have to commit all of their defensive backs to the pass and rely on their front seven to stop the run because corners Dominique Foxworth and Chris Houston can play Boldin and Fitzgerald straight up. The Vikings exposed the Cardinals and even though they play better at home than they do on the road, this is a team heading backwards entering the playoffs, as opposed to the Falcons, who have won three in a row. Our free pick for this game will be a heavy play on the over, which should easily cover given the Cardinals’ penchant for scoring and giving up a lot of points. We’d also advise taking the Falcons and laying the points. For the rest of our NFL Free Pick, see below.

Our Free NFL Pick for the NFL Playoff Wild Card matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals is

ATLANTA FALCONS –2.5

TheSpread.com Projected Final Score

Atlanta Falcons 33

Arizona Cardinals 30

We also predict that this game will GO OVER THE TOTAL (51 Sports Interaction.com) SET BY ODDSMAKERS

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Posted: 1/3/09 09:00AM ET

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