Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers Preview and Pick

Atlanta Falcons (2-1) +7, 39.5 O/U at Carolina Panthers (2-1) -7,
39.5 O/U, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C., 1PM Eastern, Sunday

by Badger of

A key battle to stay atop the NFC South standings will take place
Sunday in Bank of America Stadium when the 2-1 Carolina Panthers host
the 2-1 Atlanta Falcons.

The Panthers were expected to be in the NFC South title chase all
year, but they come into Sundays game with something to prove after
losing their first game of the season, 20-10, in Minnesota last
weekend. After jumping out to a 2-0 start on the back of some come-
from-behind magic, the Panthers sputtered on offense giving up five
sacks and losing two fumbles.

The Falcons were not expected to jump out to such a fast start, but
considering their wins have come against Kansas City and Detroit,
their solid 2-1 start doesnt have a whole lot of shine to it. Last
week the Falcons dismantled the Chiefs, 38-14, as running backs
Michael Turner (103 yards, 3 TD) and Jerious Norwood (75 yards) both
ran wild throughout the Chiefs secondary.

Oddsmakers have pegged the home Panthers as early 7-point favorites, with an opening total of 39.5. The early moneyline bet at most
offshore sportsbooks list Carolina in the range of -300 favorites, with the Falcons as +270 underdogs.

If oddsmakers were to base the spread of a game simply on offense
alone, then the Panthers would not be such large favorites at home
Sunday. The simple fact of the matter is the Panthers are only 27th
(269.3 ypg) in a 32-team league not impressive or potent enough for
long-term success. The Panthers were hoping the return of Steve Smith
would spark the units 19th-ranked passing attack (168.3 ypg) and
open things up for the running game, but Smiths four catches for 70
yards wasnt enough versus a tough Minnesota run defense.

The Falcons have stressed from day one that they were going to stress running
the ball to take the pressure off of rookie quarterback Matt Ryan, and so
far its working. Atlanta is tops in the NFL in rushing yards (203 ypg)
after three weeks (7th in scoring - 27.0 ppg), and Turner (366 yards, 5
TD) looks like the steal of the century in free agency last season.

Carolinas run defense comes into the game ranked 19th in the league
allowing 101 yards per game, so it will be interesting to see if they
creep safeties Chris Harris or Charles Godfrey (or both) into the box
to try and make Ryan beat them over the top. The same unit held
LaDainian Tomlinson to 95 yards in week one, and held Adrian
Peterson to just 77 yards last week, so they should be up to the task.

Atlantas defense against the run could be the big unknown that ends
up deciding this game in the long run. The Falcons are 23rd in the
league against the run (136.7 ypg), which might not be good enough to
stop the Panthers two-headed attack of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan

These teams have split the season series the last two years,
ironically with the road team winning each time, including the
Falcons 20-13 win last November in Bank of America Stadium. Not only
did the road team win straight up in the last four meetings, but
theyve covered the number on the road in all four as well and three
times as road underdogs.

The Panthers hold a slight 5-4-1 ATS record the last 10 games head-to-
head, but the Falcons own the overall series lead with a 13-6-4 ATS

So far this season the Falcons have been a surprising 2-1 ATS, while
Carolina is a juice draining 1-1-1 ATS. Carolina is also just a
meager 2-7-1 ATS in their last 11 home games.

The under is also historically a very solid betting trend to watch in this series, as it has cashed in at the window at an 11-4-1 clip in
the last 16 head-to-head meetings.

Despite no major injuries to speak of, the game has been taken off the board at 5Dimes, the Hard Rock and a few other offshore books. So
make sure to keep an eye on line movements in this game the rest of
the week to make sure youre not caught up on the wrong side of the

Badgers Pick: I fully expect Carolina to stack the box and make the
rookie beat them over the top. With the Panthers solid secondary, I
dont expect it to be easy. Carolina gets back on track at home this
week, so take the Panthers minus the points here.