The Indianapolis Colts head down to Georgia to face the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday (12/24/23) in a game that could prove pivotal for both sides’ playoff hopes. Get Colts vs. Falcons odds, picks and predictions below as our best bet is the Colts’ moneyline at -105.
Colts vs Falcons Prediction
This Christmas Eve, only one of these two teams on the playoff bubble can be gifted with a vital win. The Colts are in a particularly precarious position- they’re tied with both the Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans atop the AFC South with an 8-6 record. By virtue of tiebreakers, the Jaguars own the top spot, the Colts sit in the AFC’s seventh seed, and the Texans are in eighth, just outside of the playoffs. That’s how thin the margins are in this year’s AFC- there is absolutely no room for error, even in non-conference games.
The Falcons were already in a tight spot, as they entered last week locked in a three-way tie of their own. That is before disaster struck this past Sunday when the Falcons lost to a 2-12 Panthers team. In addition to of course missing out on a huge opportunity to pick up what should have been essentially a free win, the Falcons’ record in divisional play took a serious hit, which could come back to bite them in a huge way if they pull back into a tie with either the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the New Orleans Saints- both of whom won last week.
Coming off a big win over the Steelers last week, the Colts have a lot to gain from a victory here. Next week, they’ll host a resurgent Raiders team, and then, wrap up the regular season against the Texans in what could easily be a win or go home game for both sides, so every win is absolutely precious. This is their last road test of the season, but based on the Falcons’ recent form — they were already looking a bit shaky before the loss to the Panthers — it’s a winnable one.
Making things even more complicated for Atlanta is the change back to Taylor Heinicke, marking the second time this year he’s stepped in for embattled second-year passer Desmond Ridder. Arthur Smith is clearly trying to pull every string to save his job as he goes back and forth between the two quarterbacks, but at this point, it’s become clear; Atlanta’s offense is beyond saving regardless of who is at the helm. They’re near the bottom of the NFL in DVOA on passing plays and a notch below average in rushing offense — despite the best efforts of stud rookie back Bijan Robinson.
The Falcons may be the more talented squad, but the Colts play much better football. They’re a phenomenally-coached team, as head coach Shane Steichen has done an excellent job in his first year at the helm of a team after serving as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator. With everything on the line, Steichen and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley should be able to run circles around Smith and the rest of Atlanta’s staff, and Gardner Minshew can pick apart a pass defense that has completely bottomed out after some positive signs early on.
Colts vs Falcons Prediction: Colts ML (-105)
Colts vs Falcons Best Odds
The sportsbooks see this as an extremely close contest, with the Falcons favored by just one point at home. The moneyline slightly favors them as well, with a -115 line compared to -105 for the Colts. The total for this game is 44 with -110 odds on both sides.
Colts vs Falcons Key Injuries
Breakout running back Zack Moss is dealing with an injury but is expected to be ready to play, while the Falcons’ chief injury concerns right now are offensive linemen Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom.
Colts vs Falcons Key Matchups
The Colts like running the football, but they’re going to have to go to the air to take advantage of a very poor Atlanta air defense. The Falcons’, meanwhile, look to get their star back duo more involved against a thin Colts run prevention unit.
Falcons Rushing Offense vs. Colts Run Defense
For all of their flaws, the Falcons at least have the pieces in place to have a great ground offense. PFF considers their o-line to be the fifth-best run blocking unit in the league, while few running back duos pack more of a punch than Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier. Of course, Smith perhaps doesn’t leverage his weapons as best as he could, but the potential always exists for a huge game.
The metrics don’t love the Colts rushing defense, but they did a great job last week as they limited the talented duo of Jaylen Warren and Najee Harris to just 3.3 yards per carry. Linebacker EJ Speed has put together another strong campaign in run defense, which has been vital after the fall and subsequent departure of Shaquille Leonard, but there just isn’t much depth to this unit.
Colts Air Game vs. Falcons Pass Defense
Whether Zack Moss or Jonathan Taylor has been the one carrying the ball, Indy has been a run-first offense whenever possible this year. But with health questions for both, and an Atlanta pass defense that grades near the bottom by many metrics, they’re going to have to go to the air. Gardner Minshew has been passable this year, but he could have a tough time if Michael Pittman Jr. isn’t able to go, as the top wideout is currently in concussion protocol. Still, rookie wideout Josh Downs could have a big day in an expanded role if necessary.
The Falcons’ pass defense looked to be much improved earlier this year, but they’ve fallen off a lot in recent weeks. The pass rush is essentially inert, and outside of the consistently excellent Jessie Bates, the secondary is pretty weak; with or without Pittman, this could be a productive outing for Minshew and company.