Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2021 Week 18 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-11) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4)

This line, favoring the Buccaneers only by 8.5 points at home over the Panthers, suggests that the odds makers aren’t sure if the Buccaneers will play their starters for this whole game, but I think it’s likely that they do, given that they will want to secure the #2 seed in the NFC, which will get them at least two home playoff games, as well potential NFC Championship homefield advantage if the #1 seed loses in the second round. Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians has also said they aren’t resting anyone and resting in the final week of the season has never been something Tom Brady has done in his career, even when there has been nothing to play for, so I am not sure why this line is at 8.5, down from 16.5 on the early line a week ago.

The Buccaneers are still going to be short-handed, missing stud wide receiver Chris Godwin, their two best running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones, their two best edge defenders Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, and their top linebacker Lavonte David, but they should still be favored by more than 8.5 points against the Panthers, who are 12.5-point underdogs on my calculated line. The Panthers got off to a 3-0 start, but, in large part due to injuries, have lost 11 of their last 13 games and are one of the worst teams in the league.

The Panthers’ offense bottomed out without feature back Christian McCaffrey and talented center Matt Paradis, while their defense is not as good as it was earlier in this season due to all of the cornerbacks they are missing with injuries, most notably top cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was acquired to replace the injured Jaycee Horn, who is joined on injured reserve by fellow expected starters Donte Jackson and AJ Bouye. This line is underpriced, so the Buccaneers are worth a bet this week.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 26 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -8.5

Confidence: Medium

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints: 2021 Week 17 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-10) at New Orleans Saints (7-8)

At first glance, these two teams seem similar, with both having poor offenses and strong defenses. However, there are some differences. For one, the Saints are slightly better on both sides of the ball, ranking 27th in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency and 2nd in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency, while the Panthers rank 31st and 3rd respectively. The Saints also have the edge on special teams (12th vs. 23rd) and rank about three points higher than the Panthers in mixed efficiency (15th vs. 23rd). 

The Saints are also going in the right direction in terms of personnel absences, while the Panthers are heading the other direction. The Saints are still missing a lot on offense, with original starting quarterback Jameis Winston, expected top wide receiver Michael Thomas, stud right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, and starting left guard Andrus Peat all still out and starting center Erik McCoy joining them, but they will get back their two backup quarterbacks Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian, whose absence last week forced 4th string quarterback Ian Book into a near impossible situation last week, and they will also get back leading receiver Deonte Harris and likely left tackle Terron Armstead. 

The Saints also were without feature back Alvin Kamara for a stretch earlier this season and he has since returned so, in general, the Saints are relatively healthier on offense than they have been in recent weeks, while the same is true of their defense. They’ll be without safety Marcus Williams this week, which is a big absence, but they’ll get back fellow starting safety Malcolm Jenkins and stud linebacker Demario Davis and are healthier than they have been on the defensive line, in just the sixth game in which their dominant trio of defensive linemen, Cameron Jordan, David Onyemata, and Marcus Davenport, have played at the same time, with one of those being last week when Davis and Jenkins were out.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have been horrendous on offense since losing feature back Christian McCaffrey and talented center Matt Paradis, while their defense is starting to lose talented players as well. Already without cornerback Jaycee Horn for an extended period of time, the Panthers have since lost fellow starting cornerbacks Donte Jackson and AJ Bouye, while Horn’s replacement, Stephon Gilmore, is now out as well, a bigger absence than any of them. Gilmore is also likely to be accompanied on the sidelines this week by edge defender Haason Reddick, a huge loss for their pass rush.

The Panthers started 3-0, but injuries have been a big part of the reason why they have gone 2-10 since and I would expect that to continue this week, in arguably the worst shape they have been in all season. This line favors the Saints by 6.5, but my roster rankings have the Saints with a 7.5-point edge, making them 9.5-point home favorites, giving us good line value with them. I don’t want to lock this in until I know for sure the status of Terron Armstead and Haason Reddick, but it seems as if the former is playing and the latter is not and, even if that’s not true, the Saints are the pick for pick ‘em purposes.

Update: I still don’t know about Armstead, but Reddick is not playing, which is enough for me to make a small bet on the Saints, before this line potentially moves.

New Orleans Saints 20 Carolina Panthers 10

Pick against the spread: New Orleans -6.5

Confidence: Medium

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers: 2021 Week 16 NFL Pick

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-9)

The Buccaneers shockingly lost to the Saints as 11-point home favorites last week, but they won both the first down rate and yards per play battle in a game that likely would have gone the other way had the Buccaneers not lost the turnover battle by two, which is not a predictive metric, and, for all of the Saints’ offensive issues, they have arguably the best defense in the league right now, so the Buccaneers’ loss and their offensive struggles aren’t that concerning. Teams also tend to cover after a big upset loss like that, covering at a 57.4% rate after a loss as favorites of 10 points or more, as teams tend to be much more focused as a result of the embarrassment and also tend to be undervalued.

Tom Brady’s record of success after a loss is also well-documented, as he hardly loses back-to-back games. The problem is that, while Brady is close to an automatic cover off of a loss as long as he isn’t favored by too much, going 36-11 ATS as underdogs of favorites of seven points or fewer, that doesn’t hold up when he’s favored by more than seven points, going 11-13 ATS, and the Buccaneers are favored by 10 points in this matchup in Carolina. 

On top of that, the Buccaneers are missing a lot of key players in this game that will make it even tougher to cover this high spread, as they will be without two of their top three wide receivers, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, their top running back Leonard Fournette, and two of their best defensive players, linebacker Lavonte David and safety Antoine Winfield. The Panthers are a trainwreck on offense, missing their top offensive player Christian McCaffrey and several offensive line starters, and dealing with the league’s worst quarterback situation, but their defense is still playing at a high level and can keep this game relatively competitive. I’m still taking the Buccaneers for pick ‘em purposes, but I can’t be confident in them at all.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: Tampa Bay -10

Confidence: None

Carolina Panthers at Buffalo Bills: 2021 Week 15 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-8) at Buffalo Bills (7-6)

The Bills have had a weird season. They are 7-6 and barely hanging out to a playoff spot, but five of their six losses have come by one score, while their seven wins have all come by 15 points or more, meaning they are 0-5 in close games and could easily have a couple more wins at least. As a result, their point differential of +134 ranks 2nd in the NFL. Their schedule has been one of the easier in the league, but even with that taken into account, the Bills rank 7th, 1st, and 14th in offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency, while leading the league in mixed efficiency. 

However, their success has been primarily concentrated against their weaker opponents, as they are just 1-5 against teams who are .500 or better. Some of those games could have gone the other way fairly easily, but it’s a concern for the Bills as they try to make a deep playoff run. The Panthers are more in line with the teams the Bills normally blow out, but, as bad as their offense is (31st in schedule adjusted efficiency), their defense is still one of the best in the league (3rd in schedule adjusted efficiency), so they’re not a complete pushover and the Bills are not as healthy as they were for their blowout victories this season. 

The big blow for the Bills was losing top cornerback Tre’Davious White for the season a few weeks ago, but they will also be without starting left tackle Dion Dawkins and starting wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders in this game, while quarterback Josh Allen could be limited with a foot injury. I still have the Bills calculated as 10.5-point favorites, but this line is at 12, so we’re getting some line value with the Panthers, albeit not significant value. 

The Panthers are also in a little bit better of a spot as the Bills could be looking forward to their rematch with the Patriots next week and could either give less than their best effort or take their foot off the gas with a big lead and allow a backdoor cover. I’m still hesitant to go against a team that has blown out so many teams this season, so this is a no confidence pick, but the Bills are banged up and the Panthers aren’t as bad as most of the teams the Bills have blown out, so I expect this to be closer than the Bills’ other victories.

Update: Derrick Brown has been ruled out for the Panthers with COVID, but the line has adjusted appropriately, moving up to 14, so I am still on the Panthers for a no confidence pick at the new number.

Buffalo Bills 26 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: Carolina +14

Confidence: None

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers: 2021 Week 14 NFL Pick

Atlanta Falcons (5-7) at Carolina Panthers (5-7)

The last time we saw the Panthers, they were beaten easily in Miami in a horrific performance for the Panthers offense in their first game with Cam Newton under center without feature back Christian McCaffrey, who is out for the season. Fortunately, the Panthers had a bye last week, so Cam Newton will hopefully have a better grasp of this offense two weeks later, still only about a month into his return to Carolina, where he has had to learn an entirely new offensive system. Newton is far past his prime, but it wouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade on what the Panthers have gotten out of their other quarterback this season.

It also helps that the Panthers are playing the Falcons, who are one of the worst teams in the league, despite their 5-7 record. The Falcons’ five wins have all come by one score against teams with a losing record, while four of their seven losses have come by 23 points or more and five or seven by 13 points or more, contributing to a -116 point differential that ranks 4th worst in the NFL. The Panthers have the same record at 5-7, but they have a significantly better point differential at -17 and they have a clear edge in schedule adjusted mixed efficiency as well, ranking 24th, as opposed to 31st for the Falcons.

Carolina’s offense has been terrible this season regardless of the quarterback and when McCaffrey has been out it has been even worse, leading to them ranking 31st in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency on the season, but their defense has been one of the best in the league, especially in recent weeks since top linebacker Shaq Thompson and #1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore have returned from injury, leading to them ranking 2nd in schedule adjusted defensive efficiency on the season. The Falcons, on the other hand, haven’t been particularly good at anything, ranking 26th on offense and 22nd on defense.

Despite that, the Panthers are favored by just 2.5 points at home, suggesting these two teams are about even, which is not the case. My calculated line favors the Panthers by five points, so we’re getting great line value with the Panthers with this line being under a field goal, as just 8% of games are decided by 1-2 points, as opposed to 16% by exactly a field goal. However, I’m not going to bet the Panthers for a couple reasons.

For one, I don’t want to bet on the Panthers until I know how much better Cam Newton has gotten in this offense since the last time we saw him, given how terrible he was his last time out. On top of that, the Panthers are in a bad spot, having already beaten the Falcons in Atlanta earlier this year. Divisional home favorites cover at just a 42.4% rate in a same season regular season rematch against a team that they previously beat as road underdogs, as the Panthers did in Atlanta. The Panthers still make sense for pick ‘em purposes as they are the only team in this game with an above average unit in any phase of the game, but I wouldn’t recommend betting on them.

Carolina Panthers 20 Atlanta Falcons 16

Pick against the spread: Carolina -2.5

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins: 2021 Week 12 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (5-6) at Miami Dolphins (4-7)

The Dolphins started this season 1-7, but they have won three straight to push their record to a somewhat respectable 4-7. That, combined with the Dolphins being 10-6 a year ago, has caused the public to think this is no longer one of the worst teams in the league, but that is a flawed assessment for a couple reasons. For one, their three wins haven’t been impressive, as one came on a short week against an exhausted Ravens team who played an overtime game the week before, a spot in which just 16% of teams cover the spread, while their other two wins came by one score against arguably the two worst teams in the league the Texans and the Jets, with the latter coming in a game in which the Jets won both the yards per play and first down rate battle, which are the most predictive metrics. 

The Dolphins rank 31st, 22nd, 27th, 30th in offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively, which are based on yards per play and first down rate and adjusted for schedule, showing them to still be one of the worst teams in the league from a statistical standpoint, even though they are 4-7. The Dolphins did win 10 games a year ago, but they faced a very easy schedule and they benefited from an unsustainably high turnover margin (+11), opponent’s field goal percentage (3rd lowest at 73.91%), and 3rd/4th down conversion rate allowed (33.02%), which was actually lower than the 34.07% conversion rate they allowed on 1st/2nd down (4th highest in the NFL), so they were not nearly as good as their record suggested.

The Panthers, meanwhile, rank 30th, 2nd, 20th, and 18th offensive, defensive, special teams, and mixed efficiency respectively this season. Their offensive performance is concerning, especially because offensive performance tends to be the most predictive of the three phases, but they should be at least somewhat better now that they have feature back Christian McCaffrey back from an extended absence and now that they have probably their best quarterback of the year under center, with Cam Newton returning to the team a couple weeks ago. The Panthers defense, meanwhile, is legitimately one of the best in the league now that linebacker Shaq Thompson and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, two of the best players in the league at their respective positions, are both back healthy.

The Panthers are 5-6 despite having arguably the worst quarterback play in the league and being without their best offensive player for about half of the season, so with Newton and McCaffrey now in the lineup, the Panthers should be at least an average opponent going forward. Newton is certainly not without his faults, but, as bad as the Panthers’ quarterback play has been this season, it won’t be hard for Newton to be an upgrade and he could easily be a significant upgrade.

The Panthers lost at home to Washington in Newton’s first start last week, but that was a one score loss against a decent opponent and Newton should be more comfortable with the playbook this week, in what is a much easier matchup in Miami. Despite that, the Panthers are just 2-point favorites, which shows how much the Dolphins are overrated. My calculated line has the Panthers favored by 5.5 points and, in a game in which the Panthers basically just have to win to cover (about 8% of games are decided by 2 points or fewer), the Panthers are an easy choice against the spread, as long as the line stays under a field goal.

Carolina Panthers 23 Miami Dolphins 17

Pick against the spread: Carolina -2

Confidence: High

Washington Football Team at Carolina Panthers: 2021 Week 11 NFL Pick

Washington Football Team (3-6) at Carolina Panthers (5-5)

SInce cutting Cam Newton at the start of the 2020 off-season, the Panthers have paid Teddy Bridgewater 31 million for one season of decent play, before salary dumping him on the Broncos in a trade that netted Carolina just a sixth round pick. The Panthers then sent a second round pick to the Jets for Sam Darnold and guaranteed his 18.858 million dollar option for 2022, effectively locking him into a fully guaranteed 2-year, 23.63 million dollar deal, after already giving up a premium pick to acquire him. 

They passed on both Justin Fields and Mac Jones in the draft and entered the season with just Darnold and inexperienced PJ Walker under center. Because of that, when Darnold somewhat predictably struggled and eventually got hurt, the Panthers had to turn to a street free agent at quarterback. It just so happens that street free agent is Cam Newton, their original starting quarterback, who was available after a failed one-year stint as the starter in New England. It’s embarrassing for the Panthers that they committed all these resources to replace Newton only to end up with him anyway and Newton is definitely not the quarterback he was in his prime, but he was also their best option and it wouldn’t be hard for him to be an upgrade for the Panthers.

If he can be that upgrade, even if only by default, the Panthers all of a sudden become a solid team. They’re 5-5 despite their horrendous quarterback play, led by a defense that ranks 2nd in schedule adjusted efficiency on the season and that has been even better since getting cornerback Stephon Gilmore and linebacker Shaq Thompson, two of the best players in the league at their respective positions, back from injury. They rank 31st in schedule adjusted offensive efficiency, but I would expect that to improve going forward, not only because of the addition of Newton, but also because of the recent return of stud feature back Christian McCaffrey from injury.

Unfortunately, we’re not really getting line value with the Panthers, as this line has shifted from favoring the Panthers by two points last week on the early line to favoring them by three points this week, a more significant shift than it seems, given that about 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal. If Newton hadn’t just arrived a week and a half ago and was more familiar with the system, we would still be getting line value with the Panthers at three, but Newton isn’t even expected to play the whole game, meaning the overmatched PJ Walker will likely continue seeing some action.

That line movement happened despite the fact that Washington pulled a huge upset over the Buccaneers last week, a much more surprising upset than the Panthers’ win over the Cardinals and their backup quarterback Colt McCoy. Normally teams are a bad bet after a huge home upset victory, as teams have covered at just a 40.9% rate all-time after winning as home underdogs of 5 or more (Washington was +9.5 last week), but that’s mostly due to teams being overvalued or overconfident in that spot. Washington could be overconfident, but they don’t seem to be overvalued as 3-point underdogs. I’m still taking Carolina for pick ‘em purposes, but they’re not worth betting.

Carolina Panthers 20 Washington Football Team 16

Pick against the spread: Carolina -3

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals: 2021 Week 10 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (4-5) at Arizona Cardinals (8-1)

There is still a lot of uncertainty on the status of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins in this game, as both are being called gametime decisions, but a line has still been posted for most of the week at Arizona -10. The Cardinals were only 2-point underdogs in San Francisco for most of last week despite the uncertainty of Murray and Hopkins, before the line moved to 5.5 by gametime when both were ruled out, so this line being posted favoring Arizona by double digits isn’t a guarantee that Murray and Hopkins play, but this does seem like a different situation than last week, at least for Murray, who returned to practice Friday and seems to be on the right side of questionable.

Murray might not be 100% though and Hopkins may be on the wrong side of questionable, not practicing at all this week for the second straight week. Hopkins plays despite not practicing more than maybe any player in the league and last week was just the third missed game of his 9-year career, playing through multiple ailments throughout his career, so if anyone can play despite missing the last two weeks of practice, it’s him, but the missed practice time is not a good sign for his status. 

On top of that, the Cardinals could be without Rondale Moore, who would be Hopkins’ replacement, but is currently in the concussion protocol and may not be cleared by gametime. The Cardinals’ defense is missing a key player as well, with JJ Watt out for the season, so this team is not at the same strength it was when they started the season 7-0. Even if they were, it’s possible the Cardinals will slack off a little bit this week after beating the 49ers with a backup quarterback last week, similar to how the Cowboys disappointed last week as big home favorites in Dak Prescott’s return, after beating the Vikings in Minnesota with a backup quarterback.

Despite all that, I still want to pick the Cardinals, as my calculated line even with injury uncertainty taken into account is Arizona -13. The Panthers are 4-5, but three of their wins have come against among the worst teams in the league, the Falcons, Jets, and Texans and they didn’t win any of those games convincingly. Their defense is one of the best in the league with Stephon Gilmore and Shaq Thompson now in the lineup healthy, but their offense has been one of the worst in the league and is worse than their defense is good.

Starting quarterback Sam Darnold was part of the problem for this Panthers offense, but him being injured is not necessarily a good thing for this team, as his backup PJ Walker could easily be a downgrade, given how poorly the former undrafted free agent and XFL product has played in his limited NFL career thus far, completing less than 50% of his passes with one touchdown to five interceptions and a 42.0 QB rating. He’s arguably the least qualified backup quarterback in the NFL. There is too much uncertainty here to bet on the Cardinals, but they are my pick for pick ‘em purposes as of right now. If Murray is ruled out, this line will obviously change and I will update this pick, but I don’t see myself betting either side regardless of what happens.

Update: Rondale Moore is expected to play, but both Murray and Hopkins seem unlikely to play. I don’t know why the odds makers have posted a line without any certainty about Murray’s status in back-to-back weeks, but they have been quickly lowering this line, down to 7.5 now. I don’t know if it will keep falling when Murray and Hopkins are officially ruled out, but my calculated line if both don’t play is Arizona -6.5, so I am going to be on the Panthers for the time being, as it will be tough for Colt McCoy to play at the same level he played at last week and go on the road and beat a great defense by multiple scores. I will have a final update before gametime.

Update: Murray and Hopkins are out. I wouldn’t recommend betting Carolina at +7.5, but if you are going to do so, you’ll need to lock it in soon as the line has started to drop to 7 in some places.

Arizona Cardinals 16 Carolina Panthers 10

Pick against the spread: Carolina +7.5

Confidence: Low

New England Patriots at Carolina Panthers: 2021 Week 9 NFL Pick

New England Patriots (4-4) at Carolina Panthers (4-4)

This is a game with a lot of injury uncertainty. The big question mark is Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who has been out since the Panthers’ week 3 game, a stretch in which the Panthers offense has struggled mightily without him. The Panthers 3-0 start was in large part due to an easy schedule, but there is no denying how much injuries have hurt this team as they have fallen from 3-0 to 4-4 and McCaffrey’s injury was the biggest one. The Panthers’ defense, which had its own injury issues earlier in the season, is in much better shape now with Stephon Gilmore and Shaq Thompson both healthy, so, if McCaffrey can play, the Panthers should be in much better shape on both sides of the ball than they were a couple weeks ago. 

I say “should” because, in addition to it being unknown how close to 100% McCaffrey would be if he played, the Panthers also have uncertainty at quarterback, with Sam Darnold dealing with both a concussion and a shoulder injury. Darnold has not played well this season, but the Panthers would be in even worse shape at quarterback if he played at less than 100% or if they had to turn to backup PJ Walker, who has struggled when called upon in limited action in his career. The Panthers also could get punter Joseph Charlton back this week, which would be a huge upgrade for their special teams, but also adds more injury uncertainty to this game.

The Patriots have been listed as 4-point road favorites, with the oddsmakers posting a line despite the uncertainty. The Patriots are just 4-4, but they could easily have anywhere from 5-7 wins right, as three of their losses came by 1 point, 2 points, and in overtime, meaning they were just -3 in point differential at the end of regulation across those three losses. Two of their wins are one-score wins, but one took a garbage time touchdown by the Chargers to make it a one-score game, while the other came in a game in which they were missing four of their five offensive line starters. 

The Patriots’ offensive line is healthy now and this is a much better team than their record suggests, ranking 11th in schedule adjusted mixed team efficiency, despite their offensive line injuries, while the Panthers have ranked 26th, albeit while dealing with injuries of their own. The Patriots won’t be an appealing bet at -4 if McCaffrey, Darnold, and Charlton all play at something close to 100%, but I don’t foresee that happening, so it’s very likely I will end up putting a bet on New England. I am leaving the Patriots as a low confidence pick for now because of the uncertainty, but I’ll probably have an update before gametime, likely on Saturday after the injured reserve activation deadline. 

Update: Both McCaffrey and Darnold seem likely to play, although there is no way to know how effective either will be. It’s enough for me to leave this as a low confidence pick though, particularly the McCaffrey news, as he’s probably their most important offensive player.

New England Patriots 20 Carolina Panthers 13

Pick against the spread: New England -4

Confidence: Low

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons: 2021 Week 8 NFL Pick

Carolina Panthers (3-4) at Atlanta Falcons (3-3)

Both of these teams have won three games each, but that has more to do with who they have played than either team being good or even average. The Falcons’ three wins came against the Giants, Jets, and Dolphins, who are a combined 4-16, and none of them came by more than one score, while their three losses have come by a combined 53 points, even though the Buccaneers are the only team the Falcons have played who are .500 or better, having faced one of the easiest schedules in the league overall.

The Panthers, meanwhile, got their three wins in the first three weeks of the season, but two of those wins came against the Jets and Texans, who are among the worst teams in the league, and the Panthers have lost all four games since then by a combined 39 points, even though they faced just one winning team (Dallas) over that stretch. The Panthers have faced the tougher schedule overall and their week 2 win over the Saints is the only win either of these two teams has against even a decent team, but neither of these teams has an impressive resume.

The Falcons have had success more recently than the Panthers, which has led to this line shifting from favoring the Falcons by 2 points on the early line last week to 3 points this week, a significant shift given that 1 in 6 games are decided by exactly a field goal, but the Panthers have played better statistically across the whole season, ranking 28th, 6th, and 27th in schedule adjusted offensive, defensive, and special teams efficiency respectively, as opposed to 24th, 30th, and 31st for the Falcons. 

The Panthers’ recent struggles have largely been the result of significant injury absences, most notably feature back Christian McCaffrey, top linebacker Shaq Thompson, and top cornerback Jaycee Horn, but, while McCaffrey remains out, Thompson seems likely to return this week, while recently acquired cornerback Stephon Gilmore will make his debut, which should at least offset the loss of Horn and which could be a big upgrade for this defense if he is anything close to his top form. 

The Panthers are also in a better spot than the Falcons, desperate to bounce back off of last week’s embarrassing loss to the Giants, while the Falcons have to turn around and face the Saints in New Orleans next week. Teams cover at just a 41.1% rate all-time at home in a divisional matchup against a team with a sub .500 record before going on the road and facing another divisional opponent with a record better than .500. There isn’t quite enough here for the Panthers to be worth betting, but if Thompson plays I may reconsider.

Update: Thompson and Gilmore are playing, while Calvin Ridley is a surprise inactive for the Falcons for personal reasons. Lock in +3 while you can. I would not bet +2.5. The money line at +130 makes sense as well.

Carolina Panthers 24 Atlanta Falcons 23 Upset Pick +130

Pick against the spread: Carolina +3

Confidence: Medium