The Atlanta Falcons defeated the New York Giants on Monday evening and, for the most part, it was an uneventful contest between two teams with sub-.500 records. However, there were some fireworks in the final moments and, in the end, the handicapping public was greatly impacted by some of the decision-making on both sides.
With two minutes remaining, the Falcons held a 20-12 lead and Dan Quinn’s team was facing a decision on fourth and short. Atlanta’s choice was to kick a 56-yard field goal from the newly acquired Giorgio Tavecchio and, while the left-footed kicker came through with a picture-perfect strike, that was only the beginning when it came to the point spread.
Though Atlanta’s lead was stretched to 11 points (with the Giants holding no timeouts), drama ensued when the visiting team immediately marched down the field and into the red zone. In fact, New York strangely called two (!) quarterback sneaks that were stoned by the Falcons before finally scoring a touchdown and that’s where things get very interesting.
Some handicappers were able to secure different lines earlier in the week but, by game time, the Falcons were favored by either 4 or 4.5 points. After the otherwise meaningless touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr., Atlanta’s lead was slashed to 23-18 and, on cue, the Giants attempted a two-point conversation that would impact the final outcome in Las Vegas and off-shore.
The Giants converted the two-point play after that Beckham touchdown on a Saquon Barkley run, climbed within three points and the game then ended harmlessly on a failed onside kick.
On one hand, the Falcons weren’t exactly dominant in this spot, as the Giants actually out-gained their opponents based on the work of Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard. On the other, New York was absolutely not the right side from a gambling perspective and, had the Falcons chosen to simply go for the 4th and short (much) earlier in the process, the end result would not have been as controversial.
Still, these are the perils when attempting to handicap football games and, on this fine evening, some won a wager that they should not have lost and some lost a wager that they should have won.