Carolina (8-2) +1, 42.5 O/U at Atlanta (6-4)
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, G.A., 4:15PM Eastern, Sunday
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
The Carolina Panthers own the 2nd best record in the NFC this season barely trailing the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants at a record of 8-2. The Panthers have had a major improvement from last season and find themselves on the verge of winning their division in the NFC South. Fellow NFC South foes the Atlanta Falcons will try to set the Panthers back a step in that quest this weekend as the two teams tangle in the Georgia Dome.
The Atlanta Falcons stand at a mark of 6-4 along with three teams in the NFC. The Falcons are 3rd in the NFC South behind the Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After dropping to Denver last week 24-20, Atlanta needs to rattle off a couple of wins in a row to be a strong contender for a playoff position. The Falcons will most likely need to draw a wild card spot unless the wheels fall off of the Carolina Panthers momentum.
Carolina has knocked off 4 straight opponents and off to their best start since the 2003 season where they went to the Super Bowl. Last week, Carolina racked up 264 rushing yards on the ground in route to a 31-22 victory over the Detroit Lions. The Panthers have been able to do everything it takes at times this year to get wins and find themselves in great shape not only in the playoff picture, but also the division title race.
Carolina rushing game has been the improvement this year compared to last year and has played a major support roll in the offense effectiveness. The Panthers are averaging 133 yards per game placing them 6th best in the NFL. Last week, tailbacks DeAngelo Williams and Jonathon Stewart both rushed for over 100 yards. Williams has been over the century mark in his last 3 games and has been getting the majority of the work load. However, as seen last week Stewart can still be very effective when he is in the game.
Atlanta is 4-1 this season while playing at home in the Georgia Dome and they look to pull off a big win this Sunday. The Falcons have been even more successful than the Panthers so far this season on the ground averaging 153 yards per game 2nd best in the NFL. Atlanta has also put together 361 yards of total offense on average to give them one of the top 10 best offenses in the league. The Falcons look to revenge the Panthers from their 24-9 defeat earlier this season in Carolina.
Vegas has opened the contest at a betting line favoring the Atlanta Falcons by a single point. (-1) The over/under total has been posted at 42.5 while around 65% of the early betting public likes the under total for the game. ML numbers have Carolina at even money while Atlanta is posted at -120.
The future looks bright for the Atlanta Falcons behind rookie QB Matt Ryan. Ryan has thrown for 2,159 yard this season, 11 touchdowns, and 6 picks. In the last 3 weeks, Ryan has completed 69% of his passes for 4 TDs and only 1 pick. The rookie looks to be maturing with every game that passes. Tailback Michael Turner has been rock solid as well rushing for 971 this season with 9 touchdowns averaging 4.3 yards per carry. Turner will carry the big work load on the ground. However, when the Falcons go to the air QB Matt Ryan will be looking for star receiver Roddy White. White has been the go to target this season for the Atlanta offense and has caught 58 passes averaging 15.6 yards per catch. White has also been responsible for 6 TDs this season. Atlanta will look for this trio of talent to lift them over the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina offense is led by veteran QB Jake Delhomme. Delhomme has had two back to back awful weeks of football but the team has managed to pull through. Delhomme in those two games has completed only 37% for nearly 80 yards per game, with 4 interceptions. If not for the tremendous rushing success, Carolina could be in a world of trouble. The Panthers have also been supported all season by an outstanding defense. The defense has held teams to 293 yards per game ranking them 8th in the NFL while only allowing 15 points per game which is 3rd best in the NFL. The Panther defense is led by DE Julius Peppers. In the last two weeks, Peppers has had 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles with 12 tackles. Peppers has been a nightmare all season for offensive lines and will look to wreak havoc on Atlanta QB Matt Ryan.
Carolina is 5-4-1 ATS this season while going 7 out of their last 10 games on the under total. The Panthers are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games against Atlanta. Atlanta is 4-2 ATS in their last 6 games while being 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games at home. The Falcons have also went on the under total in 4 of their last 5 games.
This game should be a great game. I just think the Falcons edge this one out.