Carolina Panthers (6-8-1 SU, 7-8 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (6-9 SU, 7-8 ATS)
NFL Week 17
Date and Time: Sunday, December 28, 4:25pm EST
Where: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, GA
by Bob, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: CAR +4/ATL -4
Over/Under Total: 47
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Here we go!! The playoffs are here, okay, well not technically, but for the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers they are. The winner of this game wins the NFC South and the loser calls it a year. Both teams are under .500, but are both very alive in the NFC. Not only does the winner get a playoff game, they will host it at their stadium…crazy right? Many people laugh and think that the winner will get drilled in their first postseason game, not so fast. Remember just a few years ago, the NFC West was down and the Seahawks won it with a 7-9 record and they defeated the defending Super Bowl Saints in the first round. In the NFL, when a team is home, anything can happen.
After coming off a big win in New Orleans to stay alive, the Atlanta Falcons open as a four point favorite at home against Cam Newton and the Panthers. The total points are set at 47 overall for this match-up too. So far, 69% of the money is being wagered on the Falcons to cover the spread. As for 2014, both teams comes into this week 17 game with 7-8 marks against the spread.
The Carolina Panthers have come on strong the last couple of weeks. After going through a stretch of dropping six straight, the Panthers have now was their last three games and are right back in the mix to win the NFC South this weekend. A few weeks ago, the quarterback situation was up in the air after Cam Newton was involved in a bad car accident. From the looks of the wreck, Cam is very blessed to have not been injured worse. However, just two weeks later, Cam is back and is starting again. And his first game back after the accident, he went for 201 yards passing with a touchdown and an interception. It was enough however to hold off the Cleveland Browns 17-13 in Charlotte. If the Carolina Panthers are going to go into the Georgia Dome and get the upset win, they are going to need to play a complete game on both sides of the ball. The Falcons offense is finally clicking again, and the crazy thing is the Birds are also playing defense…which had not happened for about 90% of the season. Carolina has the 9th best pass defense in the NFL and they need this to hold true. In order to win this game, they will need to keep the Falcons off the board as much as possible. If they allow Atlanta to score 23-27 points, it will not be easy for Cam and Company to get the win.
The Falcons are coming off their most impressive performance of 2014 with their 30-14 win over the New Orleans Saints. A loss in New Orleans would have eliminated the Falcons from playoff contention, and yet they managed to step up to the plate and hit a major homerun. The offense only allowed 14 points to the Saints, and the first touchdown was due to the opening kickoff being returned to the Falcons one yard line…not the defenses fault. The Falcons are still one of the best passing teams in the NFL and the offense will be as successful as Matt Ryan and the receiving corps produces. In order to win this game and cover the spread, the Falcons need another complete performance. Julio Jones appears to be healthy, so the offense should be able to get rolling. If the defense repeats what they did against the Saints, I see a great ending for the Dirty Birds.
This is a really tough game to predict. Both teams have been up and down all season. The Panthers for about 5-6 weeks looked like the worst team in the league, but they have recovered well. With that said, I just like the Falcons here. They have already gone into Carolina this year and won, so being at home, one would think they could repeat that. I know it is a square bet, but I like it. I think Atlanta pulls away late in the fourth quarter behind the arm of Matt Ryan and an improved defense. I like the Atlanta Falcons to win 26-21 over the Panthers.
Bob’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: PICK THE ATLANTA FALCONS -4