Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons Point Spread – Pick

Carolina Panthers (11-4 SU, 9-6 ATS) vs. Atlanta Falcons (9-6 SU, 6-9 ATS)
Week 17 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 4:25PM EST
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
TV: Fox

By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: CAR +3.5/ATL -3.5
Over/Under Total: 46.5

The Carolina Panthers take on the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in a key NFC South matchup from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. For both teams, the playoff tie-ins are enormous, making it a high-stakes battle with a lot on the line. For the Panthers, they could end up with a first-round bye, be on the road for a wild card game, or anywhere in-between. The Falcons, meanwhile, are trying to win their way into a wild-card spot. On Sunday, Carolina beat the Buccaneers to win their 11th game, while the Falcons fell the Saints on the road, making this a must-win situation.

These teams met in week nine in Charlotte, with the Panthers posting a close 20-17 win over the Falcons. The Falcons had Matt Ryan going over 300 yards, but they couldn’t convert the production into many points and they hope to this week. The Falcons control their own destiny, as a win would get them into the postseason. If they lose, they can still get in if Seattle loses to Arizona. For the Panthers, the picture is less-clear. If they win and the Saints lose to the Bucs, they will win the division. If the Vikings also lose, they could end up with the 2-seed. While their playoff picture is less-dire than the Falcons, there is enough on the line to guarantee they’ll play hard.

The Falcons had done well to climb back into the playoff race, entering the game against the Saints, following 5 wins in their last 6 games. Still, the loss to the Saints on the road was costly. The Saints led 20-3 in the fourth quarter, with Atlanta making it look better with a few late scores, Either way you cut it, it wasn’t what they were looking for in a late-season must-win spot where they could have really taken control of their playoff future.


The Atlanta offense didn’t fire on Sunday—a recurring issue for the Falcons this season. The run-game was not able to get untracked. The line couldn’t contain the Saints pass-rush. Combine that with a few untimely turnovers and a slew of penalties and it was an uphill battle the entire game. Still, for all their failings on Sunday, they get another shot to make it right this week. Matt Ryan is still prolific and Julio Jones had a big game against the Panthers in their first matchup this season. They need Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to make plays on the ground and catch passes, with Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, and others getting involved. And against a tough Carolina “D,” the Atlanta O-line will need to come up with better results this time around.

The Atlanta defense has actually been pretty good this year. They have upgraded their play from last season. Like Sunday, a lot of their performances have been wasted with the offense not doing its share. In the middle up front, Grady Jarrett and Dontari Poe have done well to stop the run. Adrian Clayborn and Takkarist McKinley have been adept at rushing the passer. Deion Jones has been a massive playmaker in the middle, along with DeVondre Campbell. At corner, Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford have been solid, with Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen at safety. All told, they’ve been pretty effective in allowing a touch over 20 points a game on average.

Carolina should start commanding more respect with 7 wins in their last 8 games. The win over Tampa was a struggle, with a late Cam Newton TD run giving the Panthers the lead with 35 seconds left. Both sides of the ball have been playing well. Cam Newton has been extremely valuable and looks a bit like he did a few seasons ago when he led Carolina to the Super Bowl. And a playmaking defense has given the offense more than enough room to do their thing. With so many other contenders in the conference, the Panthers have been overlooked a bit, but their recent form suggests a contender.

Newton has 3122 yards passing with 21 touchdowns. He has also been really turning it loose with his legs of late, running for 695 yards and 6 touchdowns. With Jonathan Stewart nearing 700 yards and Christian McCaffrey having shown more aptitude in rushing, their run-game is in good shape. Devin Funchess has risen to the role of top receiver, with McCaffrey adding a lot of juice in the short-pass option. Tight end Greg Olsen is a factor moving forward. This offense has a lot of options.

The Carolina defense offers a lot of firepower and playmaking ability. Their defensive line can control games. Guys like Kawann Short, Star Lotulelei, Mario Addison, and Julius Peppers are very strong against the opposing run, while combining for over 30 sacks. Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, and Shaq Thompson make up a really strong middle. The secondary has been mostly average, but the defense has been a big part of the Panthers getting back into contention this season.

The stakes are high. With Atlanta facing a win-and-get-in scenario and at home, a case can surely be made for them on a lot of different levels. But high-urgency doesn’t always equate to on-the-field excellence. And the Panthers have their own set of motivations that won’t just go away because Atlanta wants this really bad. I see this as being a toss-up kind of game with the points maybe coming in handy. I’m taking the Falcons.

Loot’s Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Atlanta Falcons plus 3.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Panthers vs. Falcons game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you’ll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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