Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (4-11)
This is an important game to the Panthers for seeding purposes. If they win and Seattle were to lose, they would become the #1 seed and have home field advantage all the way to the Super Bowl. However, if they were to lose and New Orleans were to win, they’d fall all the way from the 2nd seed to the 5th seed, not only losing a first round bye in the process, but also losing guaranteed home field advantage through to the NFC Championship game. Atlanta, meanwhile, is obviously eliminated, but they’ll still play hard to try to ruin the plans of a divisional rival. They’ve been playing decent football of late and they clearly have not quit as players are playing for future playing time and contracts.
The Panthers usually blow out bad teams. The Falcons are playing better of late, but they’re still a bad team, exemplified by the fact that they are rightfully 6.5 point underdogs here at home. The Panthers haven’t always held their own in close games against top level teams like this year, but they’ve always destroyed bad teams, going 6-1 ATS as favorites of 6 or more since 2011, the start of the Cam Newton/Ron Rivera era. That one ATS loss was a 10 point win as 11 point favorites against the Jets a few weeks ago so it’s not like it wasn’t close to being a cover. The Jets backdoored them with a garbage time touchdown late down 30-13. They’ve still won all 7 of those games by an average of 18.72 points per game.
Given that, the Panthers should be the right side, but it’s not a big play. That alone isn’t enough to go on for a significant play and it’s not like we’re getting line significant value as I have this line calculated at exactly a touchdown, which is where it basically is at right now. Carolina could also be a little hungover after last week’s huge comeback win over New Orleans, though Atlanta too could be flat off of a crushing road loss on Monday Night Football to the 49ers in what was pretty much their Super Bowl. Of course, they could also see this one as a big game because of the Panthers’ record and because they are a divisional rival. At the end of the day, the Panthers should be the right side as long as the line stays under a touchdown, but I’m not that confident.
Carolina Panthers 23 Atlanta Falcons 13
Pick against spread: Carolina -6.5