Carolina Panthers (14-0) at Atlanta Falcons (7-7)
The Panthers are 14-0, but that doesn’t mean they’ll take their foot off the gas, at least not this week and possibly not at all, as they attempt a perfect season. This week, they’re actually still playing for playoff seeding, as 2 straight losses to finish the season, along with another two straight wins by the Arizona Cardinals drops the Panthers down to the #2 seed. It’s a highly unlikely scenario, but a reason for the Panthers to keep giving full effort, beyond the possible perfect season.
They’re missing running back Jonathan Stewart, but they’re otherwise healthy and they’re obviously a far better team than the Falcons, who they blew out in Carolina two weeks back by the final score of 38-0. This one is in Atlanta, but the Panthers still have a good chance to cover this 7 point spread. They rank 2nd in rate of moving the chains differential, as opposed to 16th for the Falcons and they’re in a couple of good spots. They don’t have any upcoming distractions, hosting the Buccaneers next week, against whom they’re projected to be 10 point favorites, according to the early line. Favorites of 6+ are 83-43 ATS since 2012 before being favorites of 6+ again, as superior teams tend to take care of business and win by a big margin when they don’t have any upcoming distractions.
It also helps the Panthers that they’re in their 2nd of two road games. Road favorites are 46-32 ATS since 2008 off of a road win, as long as it’s their 2nd of two road games. This is because teams tend to do better in their 2nd straight road game than their first one, but lines don’t really adjust for this. Teams are 223-224 straight up in their 2nd of two road games since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 0.49 points per game, as opposed to 320-435 straight up in their 1st of one road game since 2008, getting outscored by an average of 2.70 points per game. It’s not enough for me to put money on the Panthers given that the public is all over them and that the public always loses money in the long run, but I’m going with Carolina.
Carolina Panthers 27 Atlanta Falcons 17
Pick against the spread: Carolina -7