Falcons-Panthers Betting Preview: Will Carolina Cover Without Cam?

Falcons-Panthers Betting Preview: Will Carolina Cover Without Cam? article feature image

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22).

Betting odds: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

  • Spread: Falcons -3
  • Over/Under: 44
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: FOX

>> All odds as of Friday afternoon. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NFL odds and track your bets

Betting market: This line is much different than what was expected last week. Westgate’s lookahead line had Carolina at -6, but the line re-opened at Carolina -3 after their loss on Monday Night Football.

Once Cam Newton was ruled out, the Falcons moved to -2.5 and have since moved to -3 at behind 63% of the early money (check out the live odds here).

The over/under has also dropped quite a bit with Taylor Heinicke under center. The initial line with Newton set to play was between 47 and 48, but that has moved to 44. — Mark Gallant

Trends to Know: The Falcons had an offensive outburst in an easy 40-14 win over the Cardinals at home in Week 15. Bettors shouldn’t bank on another strong performance from Atlanta, though.

According to our Bet Labs data, teams that won their previous game at home by 21 points or more have gone 194-247-15 (44%) against the spread. — John Ewing

Over their past two games, the Falcons have found some of the running game that was missing all season, with 322 yards on the ground.

The Falcons are averaging 90.7 yards per game on the ground in 2018, 31st in the NFL, and has been the case of late, as the Falcons are 24th in rushing over the last five seasons.

Under Matt Ryan, the Falcons are 15-23-2 ATS (39.5%), after Atlanta rushes for at least 100 yards in consecutive games and since 2011, the Falcons are 6-18-2 ATS (25%) in this spot. — Evan Abrams

Playoff picture: The Panthers aren’t eliminated from the playoffs … yet. According to our sims, they have a 0.9% of making it. Here’s the exact scenario that needs to happen:

  • Panthers win out
  • Vikings lose out (against Lions and Bears)
  • Eagles lose to Texans in Week 16
  • Eagles beat Redskins in Week 17

So, yeah, likely not going to happen, but dreamers can dream. Scott T. Miller

Biggest mismatch:  Christian McCaffrey vs. Falcons Defense

McCaffrey leads all running backs with his 97.7% snap rate and is fourth in the league with 288 touches and 1,747 scrimmage yards. With quarterback Cam Newton (shoulder) sidelined and backup Taylor Heinicke slated to make just his first NFL start, the offense could run through McCaffrey even more than it usually does.

The Falcons rank last in the league in defensive DVOA, 30th in run-defense DVOA and 29th in pass-defense DVOA against running backs. They also have the league’s fourth-worst scoring defense

With a Cover 3 defense, the Falcons scheme to limit deep passes and instead funnel short targets to the middle of the field. As a result, they have allowed a league-high total of receptions to running backs each year of head coach Dan Quinn’s tenure.

2018: 101 receptions
2017: 110 receptions
2016: 109 receptions
2015: 118 receptions

In Week 2, McCaffrey had 102 yards on 14 receptions against the Falcons. As the team leader with 110 targets, 94 receptions, 768 yards receiving and six touchdown receptions, McCaffrey could once again get double-digits touches through the air as well as on the ground vs. the Falcons. — Matthew Freedman

DFS edge: With Cam Newton (shoulder) getting shut down for the season, the Falcons have shifted from underdogs to favorites.

This news makes Tevin Coleman intriguing with Ito Smith (knee) on injured reserve. Coleman costs just $4,800 on DraftKings, resulting in a position-high +6.12 Projected Plus/Minus in our FantasyLabs Player Models. — Justin Bailey

Which team is healthier? Panthers

The Panthers will rest Cam Newton (shoulder) for the remainder of the season. They’ll also be without kicker Graham Gano (knee) and outside linebacker Shaq Thompson (shoulder).

Their only other question mark is defensive tackle Kawann Short (calf), but the Falcons face serious question marks with Julio Jones (hip, ribs), Austin Hooper (knee, ankle), defensive tackle Grady Jarrett (groin, shoulder) and cornerback Desmond Trufant (ankle). No. 2 running back Ito Smith (knee, IR) will miss the remainder of the season.

Note: Info as of 6 p.m. ET Thursday. See our Injury Report for daily practice participation and game statuses up until kickoff. — Ian Hartitz

Bet to watch: Falcons -3

The line movement makes it tempting to jump on the Panthers as a home dog. The Falcons have not been particularly good this season, and Heinicke can’t really play much worse than Newton has over the past three weeks (6.21 yards per attempt with six interceptions and just two passing touchdowns).

That said, targeting teams with a win percentage below 40% as road favorites has historically been a decent strategy. Those teams have compiled a 49-37-4 ATS record, good for a +10.1% return on investment.

The Falcons are also coming off one of their better performances of the year last week against the Cardinals, while motivation could be an issue for the Panthers.

They gave the Saints their best shot last week, but ultimately came up short. Don’t be surprised if they come out flat now that their season pretty much over and they’re playing on a short week. — Matt LaMarca

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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