A huge NFC South showdown will occur during the early slate of Sunday’s Week 9 NFL action. The struggling Atlanta Falcons will head to Carolina to take on Cam Newton and his Panthers. A week after trading away WR Kelvin Benjamin, it will certainly be interesting to see how Carolina and the passing offense responds. Meanwhile, the Falcons are certainly a better group than they seem right now – but can they rebound in time for this pivotal clash? It’s almost now-or-never for the Super Bowl finalists from a season ago, and it will be fascinating to see if Atlanta can shake off the rust and get back to last season’s form. It won’t be easy in a hostile road environment, but it should make for a fascinating match-up.
As always, read on below for a full game analysis, breakdown, and betting odds for the Panthers and Falcons. This game should already have a playoff-like feel to it, and we’ve got you covered here at The Sports Geek!
Falcons vs. Panthers Betting Odds:
Atlanta Falcons -2.5 (-115)
@ Carolina Panthers +2.5 (-105)
Over 42.5 (-110)
Under 42.5 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Falcons vs. Panthers Pick:
The Falcons enter this game looking awful, and though they have bullied the Panthers over the past few seasons – I wouldn’t count on that continuing given Atlanta’s recent form. They escaped last week beating the Jets, and it is clear that the once high-octane Falcons have some big offensive concerns. Matt Ryan is turning the ball over way too much, Julio Jones is barely seeing it, and the running game is a non-factor on a weekly basis. That can’t continue, but it just might this week in Carolina.
Much of their issues stem from poor offensive line play, and the Panthers are well-equipped to take full advantage of that on Sunday. Mario Addison and Kawann Short are both in fine form on Carolina’s defensive line and should be able to generate all kinds of pressure on Ryan in the pocket. I think the Carolina front will be relentless and overwhelming – pulling out all the stops to not give Ryan time and space to find Julio Jones downfield.
Additionally, with Luke Kuechly back for Carolina – he’s a game changer for that defense. Running the ball won’t be possible for the Falcons, and this will most likely result in seeing Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ attack work mostly from long-yardage situations. The Panthers can also lay off the running game, and focus primarily on limiting their more dangerous aerial attack.
On the other side of the football, look for Cam Newton to continue his steady play. After a slow start where many predicted his demise, the one known as ‘Superman’ has played like the nickname in recent weeks. Atlanta doesn’t boast a strong edge rush, and this should contribute to Newton being able to escape outside the pocket and scamper downfield for some big runs.
He can also throw on the Atlanta defense. The Falcons’ linebackers has been pretty awful all season guarding tight ends, and running backs emerging from the backfield. Ed Dickson should have one more big outing before Greg Olsen returns in Week 12, and look for rookie Christian McCaffrey to finally have the big breakout performance many have been waiting for.
The spread as it currently stands is showing way too much respect to the Falcons. This isn’t the same team as last year and too many of last season’s metrics are being factored into this line. Right now Carolina is the better and more complete football team than their divisional rivals from Atlanta, and with this being the Falcons’ third-consecutive road game, look for the Panthers to send this tired team back home licking their wounds. The post-season will be that much tougher for Atlanta after Week 9.
PICK = Panthers +2.5 (-105)