UPDATE: Hours after this article was originally posted, the Falcons placed Kyle Pitts and Ta’Quon Graham on injured reserve. That means both players are for at least the next four games, although it seems likely that both players are out for the rest of the season.
Atlanta (5-6 straight up, 7-4 against the spread) ended a two-game losing streak and a 0-4 ATS slide with Sunday’s 27-24 home win over Chicago as a 2.5-point favorite. Younghoe Koo buried a 53-yard field goal with 1:47 remaining to provide the game-winning points.
The win came at a cost, though. Tight end Kyle Pitts, a Pro-Bowler as a rookie after he was taken by the Falcons with the fourth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, left the game in the second half after taking a hit to the knee. Also, DT Ta’Quon Graham was carted off the field in the first half with a knee injury.
Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported earlier today that Pitts is believed to have sustained a torn MCL that would require surgery. The Falcons are seeking a second opinion before deciding whether or not to place the University of Florida product on injured reserve.
Atlanta head coach Arthur Smith would only confirm that both Pitts and Graham are out in the short term.
As a rookie in 2021, Pitts started 15 of 17 games and had 68 receptions for 1,026 yards and one touchdown. Pitts missed one game earlier this year with a hamstring issue, but he’s started the other 10 contests. He has 28 catches for 356 yards and two TDs.
Pitts is criminally underused by Smith, who clearly has no clue what sort of talent he has in the 6-foot-6, 246-pounder with incredible speed (he ran a 4.44 time in the 40 at the NFL Combine) and athleticism.
Pitts has inexplicably had only one career game with double-digit targets. When he was targeted 10 times in London last season, he hauled in nine receptions for 119 yards and one TD in a 27-20 win over the Jets.
The following week at Miami, Pitts was targeted eight times and made seven catches for 163 yards in a 30-28 win over the Dolphins. Pitts went 11 games in a row after that without once getting eight targets.
Atlanta has a 2-1 record this season in the three games in which Pitts has had eight targets or more. In the lone defeat at Carolina last week, QB Marcus Mariota overthrew Pitts four times, or the Falcons would’ve probably won in Charlotte.
Graham, another second-year player who was a fifth-round pick out of Texas in 2021, started five of 13 games he played in as a rookie. He recorded 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, two QB pressures, two QB hits, one QB hurry and one QB knockdown.
Graham has started nine of 11 games this season, contributing 34 tackles, eight QB hits, five QB knockdowns, five QB pressures, one fumble recovery and one TFL. With Atlanta’s home game tied against the Chargers in the final minute three weeks ago, Graham recovered a fumble and returned it 19 yards, only to cough up a fumble himself near midfield on the return.
When L.A. QB Justin Herbert connected on a big pass on the very next play, it set the Chargers up for a walk-off, game-winning field goal in a 20-17 victory.
“There are certainly times where we haven’t been in sync among other things,” Smith said about Pitts. “The way we’ve had to play at times, you’re going to sacrifice some passing numbers. But the guy is a great teammate. He doesn’t pout like a lot of guys with that amount of hype because he’s a real person. That’s why we love him. A real teammate. That’s why the future is really bright, that’s why we are so excited about him in this organization.”
Atlanta pulled within one-half game of Tampa Bay for the NFC South lead with the win over the Bears. The Buccaneers, who captured a controversial 21-15 home win over the Falcons earlier this season, had an open date this past weekend. They play at Atlanta in Week 18 to close the regular season.
FanDuel currently has Tampa Bay as a -390 ‘chalk’ to win the NFC South. Atlanta has +500 odds followed by New Orleans (10/1) and Carolina (55/1).
As of early this afternoon, FanDuel had Washington (6-5 SU, 6-4-1 ATS) installed as a 3.5-point favorite for Sunday’s home game vs. Atlanta. The total was 42.5 (‘over’ 114, ‘under’ -106) points and the Falcons were +166 on the money line.
The Commanders have won five of their last six games while going 5-0-1 ATS.