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Joe D’Amico: No reason to stop riding hot Falcons

Three stars are aligned for the Atlanta Falcons: quarterback Matt Ryan, running back Michael Turner and wide receiver Roddy White.

Ryan has thrown 22 touchdown passes this season and has guided eight straight wins in December or January. Turner is fourth in the NFL with 1,174 yards rushing. White leads the league in receptions (99) and receiving yards (1,219).

The Falcons, 11-2 straight up and 9-4 against the spread, are 6-point favorites over the Seattle Seahawks today, and Las Vegas handicapper Joe D’Amico (Aasiwins.com) advises laying the points.

"I know the Falcons are playing their third straight road game, and I also know they face NFC South rival New Orleans next," D’Amico said. "But the NFC’s best team is hot, and Ryan has been superb."

Atlanta has won seven in a row, covering in six of those. Seattle (6-7) is 2-5 ATS in its past seven.

The Seahawks have lost seven times by 15 points or more. Their lack of a running attack and porous defense should provide an easy target for the Falcons, according to D’Amico, a former winner of the Review-Journal NFL Challenge.

D’Amico breaks down the rest of today’s Week 15 schedule:

■ Kansas City at St. Louis (-2½): With the Chargers winning Thursday, the Chiefs (8-5) are a half-game ahead in the AFC West and need this win. Matt Cassel, who has 23 touchdown passes and four interceptions, is questionable, but I expect him to start. The Chiefs have the NFL’s top-ranked rushing offense (165.4 yards per game), led by Jamaal Charles, and will pound the ball up the middle against a soft St. Louis defense that has allowed an average of 25.4 points in the past five games. I’ll side with the Chiefs, who have turned the ball over a league-low nine times. Look for a 3-point spread at some sports books.

■ Houston at Tennessee (-1½): This is a rematch from three weeks ago, when the Texans blanked the Titans, 20-0. Tennessee is on a six-game skid and coach Jeff Fisher is on the hot seat. Titans quarterback Kerry Collins is 1-9 in his past 10 starts, and wideout Randy Moss is a nonfactor. Houston has the superior offense, and Arian Foster beat up Tennessee for 143 yards rushing. I see no reason why he won’t do it again. Take the Texans.

■ Jacksonville at Indianapolis (-5): These teams met Oct. 3, with the Jaguars winning, 31-28. Jacksonville brings the league’s No. 2 rushing attack (157.8 yards a game), led by Maurice Jones-Drew. That doesn’t bode well for a Colts defense that allows 141.1 yards a game on the ground. The Jaguars have averaged 27.6 points in their past six games. The Colts’ Peyton Manning has no trouble finding the end zone. The "over" is 5-1 in the past six in the series, and this game should fly over the total of 48.

■ Arizona at Carolina (-2½): Only the Cardinals, a poor road team, can make Carolina a favorite. This matchup features rookie QBs in the Panthers’ Jimmy Clausen and Arizona’s John Skelton. The defenses are the worst in the NFL. Picking the lesser of two evils always bothers me, so I’ll pass.

■ Cleveland at Cincinnati (-1½): Both teams are coming off horrible efforts. The Browns are playing their third straight road game, while Cincinnati is riding a franchise record-tying 10-game skid. Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy gets the nod and will spark life into the offense. The Browns are 15-3 ATS in their past 18 road games against opponents with a losing home record. The Bengals are 5-21 ATS in their past 26 as favorites. Take the Browns.

■ Buffalo at Miami (-5): The Dolphins are still in the playoff hunt, but Miami is a dismal 1-5 straight up at home this season and 5-14 ATS in their past 19 at home. The Bills have lost five games by five points or fewer, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is a more consistent quarterback than the Dolphins’ Chad Henne. Buffalo gets the cover.

■ Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants (-3): The Eagles have won and covered five straight in this series, including the postseason. Philadelphia averages 28.8 points, and the Eagles have lit up New York for 112 points in their past three meetings. The Giants are hot, scoring 76 points during a three-game winning streak. The "over" is 5-0 in the Eagles’ past five road games and 8-3 in the Giants’ last 11 at home. I expect a shootout, so take this over 46.

■ Washington at Dallas (-7): The Cowboys are 5-0 ATS under interim coach Jason Garrett. Rex Grossman replaces benched quarterback Donovan McNabb for the Redskins, and I don’t know how much life he can bring to a team that was held to 29 total points in its past four games. Washington has lost its past two NFC East games by a combined 90-35. Lay the points with Dallas.

■ Detroit at Tampa Bay (-5): Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman continues to lead fourth-quarter comebacks, but injuries and a big number tell me to take the underdog. Tampa Bay is 2-11 ATS at home and possesses the 27th-ranked run defense. The Lions have lost six games by five points or fewer and are 6-1 ATS in their past seven against Tampa Bay.

■ New Orleans at Baltimore (-1½): The Ravens failed to cover in three of their past four at home. In their past five games, the Saints have averaged 32.6 points. With Atlanta one game ahead in the division, I side with Drew Brees and the defending Super Bowl champs.

■ N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh (-5½): Eight of the Jets’ wins are against teams with a combined record of 33-69. New York has trouble scoring against quality defenses, failing to reach the end zone against Miami, New England, Green Bay and Baltimore. The Steelers are 21-8 ATS in their past 29 games as a home favorite of 3½ to 10 points. They allow 15.2 points a game and rank No. 1 against the run, allowing an amazing 60.1 yards a game. The play is Pittsburgh.

■ Denver at Oakland (-7½): The Broncos, who have lost four in a row and eight of nine, have some revenge motivation. Denver was crushed 59-14 by the Raiders on Oct. 24. Rookie quarterback Tim Tebow will reportedly get his first start for the Broncos. But the problem is Denver’s 31st-ranked run defense, which allows 150.3 yards a game, trying to stop Oakland’s Darren McFadden. I can’t lay the points, but over the total of 42 is a play.

■ Green Bay at New England (-14): The Packers are without quarterback Aaron Rodgers and don’t have a running game to control the tempo. All of Green Bay’s five losses are by four points or fewer, but no team is playing on the level of the Patriots. Tom Brady has been flawless, with 29 touchdowns and four interceptions. New England is the play.

Compiled by Review-Journal sports writer Matt Youmans.

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