One of the few Week 17 games that has massive playoff implications for both teams takes place with an all-NFC South showdown on Sunday, as the Carolina Panthers travel to take on the Atlanta Falcons.
Many at the start of the season would have thought these teams’ records should have been flip-flopped entering Week 17, but Carolina and Cam Newton have been very solid all year long. The Falcons meanwhile have had their fair share of problems, but remain a dangerous team that knows how to win the post-season. They’ll be playing just to get in on Sunday, while the Panthers will be looking to track down the division leading Saints and look to secure homefield advantage in the wild-card round. Of all the games, this one has probably the most intrigue, so feel free to read on below for full analysis and an official betting prediction for Panthers/Falcons.
Panthers vs. Falcons Betting Odds:
Carolina Panthers +4 (-110)
@ Atlanta Falcons -4 (-110)
Over 45 (-110)
Under 45 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Panthers vs. Falcons Pick:
After a dominant 2016, Matt Ryan and this Falcons offense just has not clicked this season. And don’t think it’s all of a sudden going to happen this week either. I watched Ryan closely play against the Bucs a couple of weeks back, and he barely did anything against such a mediocre stop unit devoid of their top performers.
This week will be tough for the Atlanta QB, especially with Carolina welcoming back linebacker Thomas Davis to their lineup. He should be able to get after Ryan and apply a bunch of pressure on him to try and force him into more poor decisions. Carolina’s secondary is a weakness, but who knows if this Falcons’ offense can take advantage through the air. It has regressed that badly this year.
On the other side of the ball, look for the Panthers to be fully motivated. You know they’d love to sneak into the top spot in the NFC South, and you also know they’d love to put a nail into the coffin of the Atlanta Falcons and their playoff hopes for this season.
Atlanta boasts a brutal pass rush and they aren’t going to generate anything on Cam Newton. It should be easy for the big and talented play-caller. His legs remain elite and he should be able to both throw the ball and scramble when he needs to. Last time against Atlanta, he ran all over them to the tune of 86 yards and secured a victory. I’d expect more running from Newton on Sunday.
While Atlanta is arguably the more desperate side, it’s not as if the Panthers aren’t playing for much either. They’re rolling with all their main guys and will play hard. They also saw how hard the Bucs played them last week, and surely have to think they’ll give the Saints an equally tough match-up.
This spread shouldn’t be above a field goal, because the Falcons are not better than Carolina – at all. The Panthers are better in every facet and I expect them to relish the opportunity to knock their rivals out of post-season contention. Making matters worse for Atlanta is the status of their All-Pro centre in Alex Mack. He’s banged up and listed as questionable, and that could further disrupt the Falcons’ already stagnant offense. I like the Panthers here to definitely keep things tight and make it very difficult on Atlanta.
PICK = Panthers +4 (-110)