The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers play on Thursday Night Football in the first game on the NFL Week 10 schedule. What's the best bet on the Spreads.ca card for this game?
Line: Falcons -3
Moneylines: Falcons 150. / Panthers 240.
It's hard to imagine an NFL team looking worse than the Carolina Panthers in last week's humiliating loss at Cincinnati. In the battle between cats, the Panthers fell behind 35-0 at halftime. If the Bengals wanted to run up the score, they probably could have done a 1940 NFL championship game redux (Bears won 73-0 -- surely you remember). Cincinnati called off the massacre mid-3rd quarter, pulled its starters, and let Carolina dust off Baker Mayfield from the bench who got to piddle-paddle in a kiddie pick-up game in what might as well have been preseason versus the 2nd and 3rd stringers, eventually making the final score just a little more respectable.
The second-half deck-chair shuffle on the Carolina Titanic didn't help to save any coaching jobs, however. Just weeks after the Panthers drove former head coach Matt Ruhle to the bus station with a one-way ticket out of town, Pantherland fired two more of their coaches -- responsible for cornerbacks and the defensive line. At this rate, Carolina will be hiring any non-felon who walks through the door that isn't named Muhammed or Pedro.
All this locker room and sidelines drama sets up an interesting scenario for this week's TNF matchup, versus division rival Atlanta.
These two teams played just 11 days ago (Oct. 30) which was the wacky high-scoring Carolina "Hail Mary" game, ending in a 3-point Falcons' win in overtime. Incredibly, after a horrendous half (3 completions on 10 passes for 9 yards and 2 interceptions -- which might be the worst stat line since the Ryan Leaf era), P.J. Walker will be starting again for the Panthers.
We're going to predict a shake off last week's offensive horror show and look for Carolina to get back in sync and score enough points to push this total OVER.
As to reasons, Atlanta now looks fully healthy on offense, and should put up points on their own. The justification for our OVER pick isn't so much because these are good offenses, but the defenses are awful. Both defenses rank well below average, including two of the NFL's worst secondaries. Carolina ranks #27th while Atlanta ranks dead last #32nd....which makes you wonder why the Falcons' defensive backs coaches haven't been fired).
The Falcons allow 25 PPG. The Panthers also allow 25 PPG. Even if you're not great at math, but that's a 50-point projection using simpleton defensive figures. There's no reason why the Falcons shouldn't have success offensively against Carolina, and if that happens it likely forces the Panthers into throwing the ball more than they'd like. We see no reason why both offenses don't exploit the defensive weaknesses and play another offensive-type game, much like the 37-34 shootout between these two teams just a few weeks ago. They likely won't light up the scoreboard for 71 points again, yet this total seems a little low based on the history and circumstances heading into this game.
Another thing -- short prep weeks often hurt offenses more than defenses, but since both defenses are in such poor shape heading into this matchup, shift advantages to the offenses.
An intangible -- we also suspect that if Atlanta is leading, they may keep up the scoring late to instill even more confidence in QB Mariota and the offensive unit as Atlanta becomes a viable playoff contender in a very weak division.
Important: Find 42 or lower....this is not as strong a play at 43 and is a pass at 44. Also, a hurricane in Florida could produce rain. Total has dropped from 44 opener down to 41.5. Keep an eye on the weather since showers are forecast for Thurs. pm in Charlotte -- but this may not be as severe as forecast, and winds shouldn't be a factor).
I'm fading the forecast that the weather won't be as severe as thought. Some forecasts have just light rain and 15 mph winds....that's not bad enough to move the total 2.5 points. It is possible this total could fall to 41 closer to game time. There is some gamble here in making this wager early.
The Pick: Atlanta / Carolina OVER 41.5