Atlanta Falcons (5-3, 6-2 ATS) vs. Carolina Panthers (3-5, 3-5 ATS), Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, Week 10 NFL, Sunday, Nov. 15th, 1 pm Eastern, Fox
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Falcons -2/Panthers +2
NFC South Division rivals conclude their series for the season when the Atlanta Falcons take on the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.
Most online sportsbooks opened this game with Atlanta favored by a point or two, with a total of 44.5. And while the line has settled at -2 into Thursday, the total has been dropped by a point at most shops.
The Falcons are also being offered at right around -130 on most NFL betting moneylines, with Carolina getting +110 as home underdogs.
Atlanta started 4-1 this season, then needed a 31-17 win at home last week over woeful Washington to halt a two-game losing streak.
Carolina lost its first three games this season, but has recovered a bit, winning three of its last five. Last week, the Panthers played New Orleans tough at the Superdome before falling 30-20.
So the second-place Falcons trail the division-leading and undefeated Saints by three games in the NFC South, with the Panthers lagging in third place, two games behind Atlanta.
We know it’s early, but the Falcons would be one of the NFC wild-card entries if the playoffs started today.
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan continued his good play from last year earlier this season, but he’s struggled a bit lately. Overall, the second-year starter out of Boston College has hit on 61% of his throws so far this year for 6.9 YPA, with 13 TD passes, 10 INTs, and an 82.2 passers rating.
Last year, as a rookie, Ryan threw 11 interceptions in 434 attempts; this year, his 10 INTs have come in just 257 attempts. Last season, Ryan averaged 27 passes per game; this year, he’s averaging 32 throws per game.
Carolina has not looked anxious to throw the ball in recent weeks, and perhaps with good reason. Thus far this season, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has completed 59% of his passes for 6.6 YPA, which is average at best, with five TDs, a league-high 13 interceptions, and a less-than-adequate 61.7 passing rating.
Throw in three lost fumbles, and Delhomme is turning the ball over on average twice a game this season.
The Panthers rank 13th in the league in average time-of-possession at + :52, while the Falcons rank 21st at -2:36.
Carolina is outgaining opponents this season by a 325-304 YPG margin, and outrushing foes 153-122. Atlanta, meanwhile, is getting outgained 370-336, and outgrounded 124-119.
Atlanta beat Carolina in the first meeting between these two teams this season 28-20 at the Georgia Dome back in week two. The Panthers won the yardage battle 440-371, while the Falcons outgained Carolina on the ground 151-144.
Atlanta covered the spread that day as six-point home chalk, and a late Panthers score tipped the game over its total of 44.
Last year, these two playoff qualifiers split their two games, each team winning on their home field. And they also split their meetings the previous two seasons.
These two teams have played three common opponents so far this season. Atlanta beat Washington, and lost to Dallas and New Orleans, going 2-1 vs. the pointspreads in the process. Carolina, meanwhile, beat the Redskins, and lost to the Cowboys and Saints, going 1-2 ATS along the way.
The totals are 5-3 in Falcons games this season, which have averaged 46 points, while the O/Us are 4-4 in Panthers games, which have averaged 43 points.
Through the first half of this season, NFL home underdogs are 13-27 straight up, and 17-23 vs. the pointspreads.
The Sagarin PURE POINTS ratings at USAToday.com rates Atlanta at 26.2, Carolina at 14.8. Factoring in Sagarin’s updated NFL home-field advantage figure of 1.0, and the Falcons are 10 1/2-point road favorites over the Panthers on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: The Panthers held their own vs. a red hot Saints team for most of the game before getting beat in the end by a much better team. The Falcons are a great team but the combination of Carolina being at home and they’re much improved recent play, the Panthers are the play here in what is likely to be a very exciting and high scoring game.