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49ers-Falcons picks, predictions: Maybe closer than some expect?

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Falcons blog The Falcoholic joined us to make predictions for Sunday’s game, and what the fans think about it.

The San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons are squaring off in a Week 15 matchup with draft implications for the 49ers and playoff implications for the Falcons. It’s time once again for some predictions from The Falcoholic and Niners Nation. I exchanged a handful of questions with Dave Choate, and predictions mark the final part of it.

We ended up with fairly similar predictions. The 49ers are a two touchdown underdog, and I think we see the final score end up pretty close to the line. I could see the 49ers take an early lead and fall apart like usual, or I could see the Falcons jump out early and the 49ers add some garbage time points to put the line in jeopardy. But either way, I see the 49ers losing by double digits.

Dave Choate, The Falcoholic: Falcons 35-24

Once again, both teams are playing for pride, while fans are hoping for draft position improvement. The 1-11 49ers sit at No. 2 in the 2017 NFL Draft order, while the Jets are 3-9 and tied for fourth with the Chicago Bears. A win drops the 49ers into a tie with the Jacksonville Jaguars, while a loss further secures their spot at No 2, and potentially gets them up to No. 1 with a Cleveland Browns win.

I've been a Falcons fan since the early 90s, so as you might expect, I have a healthy respect for the 49ers franchise. Atlanta has suffered too many losses at the hands of great San Francisco teams for me to do anything else.

That said, this is not the 49ers team I knew from my youth, and it's not even the 49ers team that seemed so impossible to beat during the Jim Harbaugh years. It's a bad football team that isn't suddenly going to get magically better between now and the end of the year, and while I certainly hope you guys are back to being contenders again in the near future, it would be patronizing to suggest otherwise right now.

With that in mind, my prediction is pain. The Atlanta Falcons have arguably the league's best offense, a defense with just enough talent to complement said offense, and they're at home and as healthy as they're likely to be the rest of the way. They can be maddening at times, but they're a playoff-caliber team in this unsettled NFC environment, and there's no reason they shouldn't win this one going away.

I anticipate the 49ers will put up a better fight than many expect, but I also think the Falcons simply will outgun them and wind up pulling away late. Let's say 35-24, Falcons.

Fooch, NN: Falcons 35-20

I go back and forth on this game. The 49ers have actually been a very good first quarter team. Football Outsiders ranks their offense and defense No. 9 and No. 8, respectively, in the first quarter. Things quickly fall apart, however. The offense ranks 16th, 30th, and 23rd in the remaining three quarters. The defense ranks 32nd, 14th, and 30th in the remaining three quarters.

I would not be surprise to see the 49ers jump out to an early lead, maybe 10-0 or something along those lines, and have Falcons fans sweating into the second quarter. Things will slow down in the second quarter and it will probably be tied or the Falcons will have a small lead at halftime. Then, the 49ers will go into a shell in the third quarter while the Falcons take a sizable lead. We might see some fourth quarter shenanigans from the 49ers, but in the end they lose and likely fail to cover by a final score of something like 35-20. Of course, I also am picking the Falcons to cover the spread, so beware as my AT picks have been truly atrocious this season.

It is also possible the Falcons just blow the 49ers out from right out of the gate. I do think even in that case we see some garbage time points, but this team is losing players at a ridiculous rate, and they were already thin along the depth chart. I don't think they quit, but they're just not good enough. Crazy things happen in the NFL, but a 49ers win would be the biggest upset in the NFL in the past couple years. A slim cover is possible, but I think we end up seeing the Falcons cover this one.