Both teams may have a losing record, but that shouldn’t stop them from getting up for a rivalry game this week as the Carolina Panthers face the Atlanta Falcons. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Sunday, December 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fans throughout the Carolinas and Georgia will be able to watch the game on Fox.
Current betting odds list the Falcons as 3-point favorites at home. The game also has an over/under of 47.5 points. Make sure you check out all of the Week 14 NFL betting odds.
The Panthers have seen a once-promising season fall apart in a hurry. Carolina is now nursing a four-game losing streak that has taken them out of the playoff picture and cost head coach Ron Rivera his job. The final straw came last week when the Panthers lost 29-21 at home to the Redskins. The loss dropped them to 5-7 and will all but guarantee that Carolina misses the playoffs for the third time in the last four years. Of course, the Panthers fired Rivera a little too late to turn their season around. Carolina faces a brutal schedule down the stretch with games against both the Seahawks and Saints and even winning out probably won’t be enough to reach the playoffs.
As for the Falcons, they have long been out of the playoff picture thanks to their 1-7 start to the season. To their credit, Atlanta showed some signs of life with back-to-back road wins over the Saints and Panthers last week. But they’ve slipped back into their old ways with consecutive losses to the Buccaneers and Saints the last two weeks. Of course, head coach Dan Quinn still has his job despite being on the hot seat all season. There might be time for Quinn to save his job, but the Falcons will have to win a few more games down the stretch, especially when playing at home in front of a fanbase that is starting to become apathetic.
As mentioned, the Falcons beat the Panthers 29-3 less than a month ago. At the time, it was a shocking result, but it’s far less surprising now that Carolina has continued to collapse late in the season. With that win, Atlanta has now won four in a row against the Panthers, as well as seven of the last 10 meetings in this rivalry. In fact, the Panthers haven’t won a game it Atlanta since 2014.
There’s no excuse for Carolina losing at home to Washington last week. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to take the Falcons as 3-point favorites. Despite losing four in a row, the Panthers were just inches from forcing overtime with the Packers and went toe-to-toe with the Saints during that span. Carolina is better than they showed last week while the same probably isn’t true of the Falcons. With an extra three points, I’ll take my chance on Carolina bouncing back and finally stealing a win in Atlanta.
Admittedly, there was a 26-point difference between these two teams a few weeks ago. But the Falcons benefited from a punt return for a touchdown and four turnovers in that game. Neither of those occurrences is likely to repeat this time around. The Atlanta defense also came up with five sacks in this game, which was uncharacteristic of them. Even against a Carolina offense that was a train wreck last week after going up 14-0, I’m not sure the Falcons can expect the same kind of defensive performance they got against the Panthers a few weeks ago.
Keep in mind that the Panthers still have the best player on the field in Christian McCaffrey. He’s been held in check the last few weeks, at least by his standards, but he’s still a dangerous playmaker on every play and a threat to make something out of nothing every time he touches the ball. Outside of the two games that they won last month, the Atlanta defense has been terrible all season, so I’m not willing to bank that they can keep McCaffrey contained a second time.
On the other side of the ball, the Atlanta offense also has plenty of problems. They still can’t run the ball, even with Devonta Freeman returning from an injury last week. Pass protection also continues to be a weekly struggle for the Falcons, who have given up 40 sacks over the first 12 games of the season.
To be fair, the Carolina defense has been a disaster in recent weeks. They allowed the Redskins to run all over them last week, which raises some red flags. However, that’s not necessarily something the Falcons will be able to replicate. Also, keep in mind that Carolina still has one of the best pass rushes in the NFL. That’s an area where they’ll be able to exploit one of Atlanta’s weaknesses as long as they don’t allow themselves to fall behind.
I know the Panthers don’t have the best track record in Atlanta, but the Falcons aren’t the kind of team that should be favored. The Falcons have a lot of weaknesses, including some that the Panthers should be able to expose. Obviously, there’s little reason to trust either team at this point, but that makes me think the safer pick is taking the underdog to at least beat the spread.