A huge NFC South divisional clash will decide who goes to the post-season and who watches the playoffs at home today from the Georgia Dome. It’s been a pretty down year for all the talent within the NFC South, but somebody has got to win the division and represent it when the playoffs begin next week. The Bucs were terrible, and the Saints weren’t much better, and now the Panthers will travel to Atlanta to do battle for the right to be one of the worst playoff teams in recent memories. Virtually all the teams in this division have major flaws, but somebody has got to make it, and that’s why we’re here to break it all down for you. It should be rocking in the Georgia Dome for this do-or-die clash, and with Julio Jones all cleared and ready to play, the Falcons faithful should have a lot to cheer about against Cam Newton and his Panthers. Which sub-.500 team will get to host a playoff game next week? Read on below for a full game breakdown and the official wager for this NFC South showdown to find out!
Panthers at Falcons Betting Odds:
Carolina Panthers +3 (-110)
@ Atlanta Falcons -3 (-110)
Over 48 (-105)
Under 48 (-115)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
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Panthers at Falcons Pick:
The implications for this match-up are simple. The loser watches from home, and the winner gets to host a big playoff game next week. While you can argue all you want about how neither of these teams deserve to be in, the fact is they both possess playoff-calibre offenses right now, and expect that to be a big story as today’s game unfolds.
For the Falcons, Roddy White, Julio Jones, and Matty Ryan at home in the Georgia Dome can put up points on absolutely any defense. So penetrating the Panthers putrid unit really shouldn’t be all that difficult. Even though Carolina has been better on defense in recent weeks, they haven’t faced an offense like Atlanta, and look for the Falcons to give them a lot more than they can handle this afternoon. Ryan should be able to spearhead scoring drives whenever he wants, and the fact remains there aren’t many people in the league who can effectively cover Julio Jones, and certainly nobody on Carolina can. This week, Atlanta will have a nice dual-threat attack going as well, as they no longer will be forced to act loyal to Steven Jackson, as it is believed the washed-up back will miss the contest. This of course means more carries for the youngster Devonta Freeman who has really come on in recent weeks. The threats of both the aerial attack and a competent ground game will confuse the Panthers and not allow them to focus on stopping either one. The Falcons should be able to move the chains at will, and put up a ton of points on one of the NFL’s worst defenses. Carolina has struggled vs. the run for all of 2014, and that won’t change today.
When Carolina has the football, they too can pose some problems for the Falcons defense. With Newton being healthy, the former Auburn Tiger has proven he can do some big damage with his legs, but the fact remain the Panthers’ offensive line still is a joke. They offer little protection, and were a big reason why Newton was so banged-up in the first place. Even though the Falcons don’t really generate all that much pressure, the Falcons will have their fair share of opportunities getting to Newton due to the weaknesses of Carolina’s O-Line. If Newton can consistently evade pressure and find targets downfield, the Panthers could have some success in the Georgia Dome today, but that’s a huge if for this unit.
At home in a do-or-die situation, it’s tough not to side with the home team, the more in-form team, and the squad right now with the superior offense. I foresee this being a back-and-forth affair with both teams being able to score when they want. Defenses will look optional in this contest, and when push comes to shove, I’ll trust the depth and versatility of Atlanta’s offense. Devonta Freeman is a true talent, and will be able to show it against a sub-par Carolina defense. The Panthers still have major protection issues and have been probably the most frustratingly inconsistent team all season long. Now isn’t a time to trust them, so let’s ride with Matty ‘Ice’ Ryan and the Falcons today at home.
PICK = Falcons -3 (-110)