The Falcons and Panthers are in a similar state as the end of the season rolls around; both sit on the edge of the playoff hunt and sport a 5-7 record. The Panthers just fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady; I guess in hopes of providing a spark for the offense. Or it could be Matt Rhule’s verbal commitment to running the ball, which probably isn’t Brady’s expertise. Either way, it would be asinine to assume they turn it around right now with such a poor pass blocking offensive line and bad quarterback play.
Things in Atlanta aren’t much better though. Atlanta gave up over 200 yards on the ground in the first meeting with Carolina, which is one of six straight games Dean Pees’ unit gave up 100+ rushing yards. They’re giving up the second-most points per game, but somehow, they’re playing better football than the offense. Matt Ryan and Arthur Smith haven’t quite found a rhythm in recent weeks because of several different reasons. Nothing clicks at the same time; at least one facet of the offense always seems to be missing — offensive line miscues, receivers’ lack of separation, quarterback blunders, etc.
It is a meeting of two big ugly teams that are going to have to win this game on the ground. Both teams are going to try to impose their will on the other, and it might just come down to who wants it more. The Falcons opened as 3-point road underdogs to the Panthers earlier this week, but Carolina opened as low as -2.5 on some betting outlets and went to -3 shortly after hitting the board. There’s a lot of juice on the Falcons +3, too — -118.
After a forgettable Halloween matchup, the Falcons and Panthers will probably put out a gag-worthy performance on Sunday, but that shouldn’t stop us from laying action here; there’s always opportunities. Carolina took that first game 19-13 by kicking four field goals and running the ball a pain-staking 47 times for 203 yards. Since then, Brady was fired and Rhule has been outspoken about getting back to running the ball, so guess what they’re going to do. And we know Atlanta’s defense is suspect in many areas.
On the contrary, Carolina’s defense is a respectable unit despite giving up a combined 53 points the past two weeks. They’re an aggressive blitzing unit because they have the talent on the backend. The Panthers bring at least one extra pass rusher on a third of their opponents dropbacks and create a lot of pressure when they do, evident in their 32 total sacks. This spells bad news for a struggling Atlanta offensive line.
It isn’t going to be a pretty game, but I would probably go with the home favorite — only because Atlanta’s offense looks absolutely lost. But then again, Carolina’s offense isn’t some high-powered group. Instead of betting the spread, the real play here is the point total.
Carolina and Atlanta have stayed below the total in 13 of their past 17 head-to-head matchups. With the Falcons offensive struggles and the Panthers blind commitment to running the ball, this could be a hard game to watch. Atlanta has only scored more than three touchdowns once in the past six weeks — five of six Unders hitting over that stretch.
Prediction: Under 42.5