At long last, the NFL regular season is finally here, and with it comes the debut of first overall pick Bryce Young for the Carolina Panthers. He’ll be taking on another young upstart team, the Atlanta Falcons, with overflowing offensive talent and high hopes for this season. Let’s check out the odds for this Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons matchup, where my prediction is that the Falcons will cover a 3.5 point spread.
Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons Prediction
Expectations in Atlanta are as high as they possibly can be for a team coming off of a 10-loss season, as the Falcons have very real playoff aspirations in season 3 of the Arthur Smith era. Desmond Ridder is officially QB1 after showing some promise in four starts last season, throughout which he completed 63.5% of his passes en route to two touchdowns, and no interceptions. The Cincinnati product also won two of those four games, building some confidence and inspiring hope in the Dirty Birds’ fanbase.
Rookie wideout Drake London also looked great last season, while much-maligned tight end Kyle Pitts continued to show some flashes of what he can be. With speedy wideout Scotty Miller coming over from the division-rival Bucs and of course, super-talented running back Bijan Robinson entering the lineup after being picked eighth overall, Ridder will have a full arsenal of weapons at his disposal, as well as a very strong offensive line in front of him.
The same cannot be said for Bryce Young, who has left Nick Saban’s Alabama and will be greeted with perhaps the worst group of offensive skill players in the league. It will be a true trial by fire for the Heisman Trophy winner, as he will have to overcome a terrible situation to live up to the first-pick billing.
In addition to the issue of talent around him, the offensive playcalling is in a strange place as well; head coach Frank Reich will start the year with the play sheet, and will pass over the duties to Thomas Brown at “some point” this season. Brown, an up-and-comer at age 37, is coming from the Rams, where he was assistant head coach, but was last a coordinator in 2018, at the University of Miami.
The Falcons are in much better shape talent wise, coaching wise, have a very nice home field advantage, and are not starting a debutant QB; 3.5 points is an unfathomable spread for this one, they will win comfortably and absolutely cover. The total is a tougher call at just 39.5 points, as the Falcons could absolutely run up the score, but there’s no way to bet the over in this spot, with no guarantee that the Panthers to score even twice in Young’s debut, so this isn’t as strong of a lean as the spread, but we’re also siding with the under here.
Carolina Panthers vs Atlanta Falcons Betting Odds
The Falcons are just 3.5-point home favorites, while the total is set at 39.5. Both sides of either one of these numbers are priced essentially evenly.
Carolina Panthers vs Atlanta Falcons Key Matchups
Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons below.
Panthers Offensive Line vs the Falcons Defensive Front
With a young, very small quarterback making his pro debut, keeping him upright will be of the utmost importance for the Panthers this week and every week. Luckily, they’ll be going up against an Atlanta pass rush that ranked 31st in PFF’s grading system last year, ahead of only the Bears’ abjectly useless unit. D-lineman Grady Jarrett led the team with 6 sacks and will be a major force again, as the defense looks to reinvent itself under new coordinator Ryan Nielsen, who came over from the division-rival Saints and was a major driving force behind the excellent defenses they’ve had in recent years. Arnold Ebiketie could be in for a sophomore breakout, as he has had an outstanding preseason under Nielsen’s tutelage, and veteran adds Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree are also potential difference makers.
The offensive line is actually one of the Panthers’ more serviceable units, and could do well against Atlanta’s pass rush if the Nielsen effect is not felt immediately. Taylor Moton and Austin Corbett were particularly strong, and will both be back this year, although Corbett is on the PUP list to start the season. Rookie Chandler Zavala will step in at guard and look to fill in with a strong NFL debut.
Falcons Pass Catchers vs. Panthers Pass Defense
The Falcons’ assortment of pass-catching options is undeniably the most exciting aspect of this team coming into a pivotal 2023 season, where they have a real chance to win a very weak NFC South. Drake London is a prime breakout candidate with Ridder at the helm, and the Panthers will have to contend with the physically gifted and very versatile Pitts. And of course, while he’s a running back, Bijan Robinson will be a threat through the air as well as a key outlet for Ridder.
They’ll be attacking a Panthers secondary that ranked 29th in PFF’s ranks last year as they allowed 25 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Jaycee Horn was the standout performer, and he will likely shade London as the top corner. That being said, nobody else had a particularly good campaign, and finding a cover for Pitts will be a huge hurdle for this group, as few defenders on the roster match his physical profile.