The Atlanta Falcons are heading North for a late-season divisional clash with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday (12/17/23). Get Falcons vs. Panthers odds, picks and predictions below. Our best bet is Falcons -3.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers Prediction
Every single game is vital for three of the four teams in the NFC South. The New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons are all tied with a 6-7 record, and with a couple of matchups between the three teams yet to come, both the outright division lead and control of several key tiebreakers are still up for grabs. That makes this game, one of Atlanta’s last chances to bolster their divisional record, an absolute must-win contest.
For the Panthers, it’s frankly not. Carolina’s 1-12 record makes them the league’s worst team by a full two games, despite the fact that they do not own their first round pick this year and thus have no reason to tank. This season has quickly gotten out of hand, and the Panthers, who already dismissed first-year head coach Frank Reich, know it. They just want it to be over so they can move on to a true tank season, one in which they own a first rounder, and are playing accordingly.
Over the past month, they’ve become the league’s most run-heavy team, despite the fact that they’re almost always trailing, a situation in which a team that’s trying to win would throw the ball. The Panthers seem to want to get through the rest of this year while sustaining the least damage possible to young centerpieces like rookie quarterback Bryce Young. Even if winning can’t hurt them, in terms of the draft, it really can’t help them either at this point, a fact that they have thankfully recognized.
Even when only considering the motivation factor, it’s hard to understand how the Falcons are only favored by three points. But when you dig into the numbers, it makes even less sense. The Panthers are at or close to the very bottom of the league in just about every single category by EPA, DVOA, success rate, PFF grade- you name it, they’re bad at it.
The one exception is pass defense, which ranks closer to average by most metrics, but things are trending down lately, even with improved health; Jaycee Horn’s return has been a big boost, but Jeremy Chinn is still doing basically nothing. One area where the Panthers really are dead last or at least bottom three by every single metric is run defense, which will be a serious issue against the running back duo of Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier.
On the other side of things, the Atlanta run defense is top-10 by most metrics. This means that either the Panthers will stick to stubbornly grinding the ball into the ground, which will completely fail, or they’ll lean on Young, another doomed strategy. This spread is entirely impossible to understand, as the Falcons should be able to positively coast to a straightforward but vital win.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers Prediction: Falcons -3
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers Best Odds
ATL @ CAR
Dec. 17, 12:00 PM
Odds updated December 17th, 2023, at 2:47 pm
The Falcons are -3 road favorites against the hapless Panthers, or -165 on the moneyline to simply win. The Panthers are +140 to pull off the upset, while the total is set at a fairly low 35 with -110 odds on either side of that number.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers Key Injuries
The Panthers are mostly healthy at this point, with the exception of top tight end Hayden Hurst, while the Falcons have tackle Kaleb McGary and cornerback Jeff Okudah both listed as questionable.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers Key Matchups
The Falcons will look to impose their will on the road by establishing the run through their star back duo, while the Panthers will need Bryce Young to have a nice game through the air to stay in this one.
Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs. Carolina Panthers Run Defense
The Falcons are averaging 132.2 rushing yards per game, the sixth-highest total in the league. Of the five teams ahead of them, two feature very mobile quarterbacks who contribute a ton on the ground. Bijan Robinson has flashed the talent that made him a high draft pick, as he’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry en route to what should be approximately a thousand-yard rookie season, while Tyler Allgeier has cooled down quite a bit but has been a good second back.
Ranking in the bottom three in just about every single run defense metric, it’s hard to see how the Panthers might slow down Atlanta on the ground. Fourth-year d-lineman Derrick Brown is in the midst of a second consecutive solid season, but he hasn’t had much support from the rest of the front seven as Ejiro Evero’s mastery has mostly been limited to the air defense.
Carolina Panthers Air Offense vs. Atlanta Falcons Pass Defense
The Panthers have sometimes run the ball even when doing so works against their own best interests. But if they want to succeed, they’ll have to put the ball in the air. While Atlanta’s ground defense is a strength, DVOA considers their defense against the pass to be one of the league’s worst. PFF considers the Atlanta pass rush to be one of the very worst in the entire NFL, while the secondary has graded a bit better, although still soundly below league average as their early-season successes have begun to fade away.
The Panthers are around the range of bottom-five in most of the major pass metrics. Young has really struggled to get things going in his rookie year. Of course, the Panthers have not made things easy for him, with an o-line that has given him almost no protection, and a receiving group behind top wideout Adam Thielen that really cannot get open. We’ll see what they can do against a mediocre Falcons pass defense, and how much of a chance they’re even given.