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Saturday, December 27, 2014

NFL Predictions 2014 Week 17: Panthers Vs Falcons

Carolina Panthers Vs. Atlanta Falcons: ATL -3 (-115) (Pinnacle)

Market Watch

This is an interesting point spread. It opened at -3, got bet up as high as -4 midweek, and has since come back down to -3.  The way I see this game, the line move was the right one. This should be -3.5 at minimum, so there is value on the current number.  With 24 hours to go before kickoff, 59% of the bets are on the Falcons.

Bottom Line

There seems to be a lot more respect for the Panthers in this game than I have. I think the true line for this one should be around Falcons -5, if not a bit higher.

Yes, the Panthers have quietly won three games in a row, and the Falcons have a losing record, but when we compare this matchup as a head-to-head, there's no doubt who the better team is.

I think the big problem for Carolina will be finding a way to stop Julio Jones.  The Panthers have been average on defense for most of the season, and it's asking a lot for them to come up big in this spot on the road.

We also have to look at the line of scrimmage. Carolina was supposed to be a dominant front, but they've been a middle of the road unit when it comes to rushing the passer. Likewise, on the other side the Falcons OL hasn't been nearly as bad as they projected to be in September. In fact, they rank near the top in adjusted-sack rate.

On top of all that, the Panthers D rank dead last inside the red zone and on third/fourth down.  That's just brutal.

And speaking of brutal, some might use that description for the Falcons defense. I wouldn't necessarily say they would be wrong, but they've quietly played better down the stretch.  And despite their poor numbers on this side of the ball, the Falcons rank second in the league in red zone defense. That could wind up being the difference in the game if it is close in the fourth quarter.

But will it even come down to that?  The Panthers will need to control this game on the ground if they hope to win, and they've been below average on offense all year long.  I just can't see how they'll be able to score enough points to outscore Matt Ryan and company here.

The Falcons have dominated their division this year, and I think they do enough to make it a clean sweep on Sunday. They may not deserve to be in the playoffs, but I'll take them to win this game and get in the big dance.

NFL pick: ATL -3.
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