Panthers vs. Falcons Betting Odds & Pick: Keep Fading Atlanta In Week 5
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images. Pictured: Matt Ryan
Panthers vs. Falcons Odds
After opening the season with four straight losses, the Atlanta Falcons are in desperate need of a victory to save their season with Dan Quinn firmly sitting on the hot seat. They’ll look to do that against their NFC South rivals, the Carolina Panthers, who are coming off two straight wins and have exceeded expectations so far under new head coach Matt Rhule.
This should be an ideal spot for Atlanta, which has won eight of its last nine meetings against Carolina, but I don’t think the Falcons get off the snide.
Let’s take a closer look.
After an offseason that saw heavy turnover, including quarterback Cam Newton and head coach Ron Rivera moving on, expectations weren’t very high for the 2020 Panthers. Oddsmakers set their preseason win total at just 5.5, and Carolina was seen as the bottom feeder of a division that features Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matt Ryan at quarterback.
With Rhule forced to implement his new system virtually, most would be surprised that the Panthers have started this season 2-2 with back-to-back wins over the Chargers and Cardinals. Those victories are especially surprising given that running back Christian McCaffrey has been out due to a high-ankle sprain that he sustained in Week 2.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is finding his groove with offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
Bridgewater’s accuracy has been instrumental in Carolina’s success as he ranks third in the NFL in completion percentage at 73% — the highest mark for any Panthers quarterback through the first four games of a season. He’s also seventh in the NFL in passing yards with 1,147 through four weeks. And a depleted Falcons secondary should provide the perfect opportunity for Bridgewater — who has just four passing touchdowns and one on the ground through four games — to increase his scoring totals.
Bridgewater’s stable play has continued to make him historically great against the spread (ATS) as he enters his seventh NFL season. According to our Bet Labs data, he’s 29-9 (76.3%) ATS in his career and 19-5 (79.2%) against the number as an underdog, a role he’ll find himself in again this Sunday on the road.
The Panthers’ offense hasn’t skipped a beat without McCaffrey, as we’ve seen a more balanced attack from them since his injury in Week 2. Over the past two games, running back Mike Davis has thrived as a short-term replacement in the backfield, rushing for 131 yards on 30 carries and catching 21 passes for 146 yards with two total touchdowns since Week 2.
Robby Anderson developed chemistry with Bridgewater, catching 28-of-34 targets for a team-leading 377 yards and one touchdown. D.J. Moore has had a disappointing start to this season given his breakout in 2019, but he’s still been relatively productive with 18 receptions for 288 yards.
Carolina’s inability to generate a pass rush is its biggest issue defensively, as the Panthers are dead-last in the NFL with just three sacks and rank 31st with a 15.7% pressure rate. Despite this, they’re still significantly better than the Falcons defensively: Carolina ranks 22nd in yards allowed (352.25), 14th in points allowed per game (25.5), 14th in passing success rate and fifth in explosive pass play rate.
The Falcons’ defense continues to consistently put them behind the eight ball.
Despite having a defensive-minded head coach in Quinn, the Falcons rank 31st in yards allowed per game (448.2), 31st in points allowed per game (34.5), 29th in passing success rate, 20th in rushing success rate and 30th in explosive pass play rate (plays of 20 or more yards).
The Falcons gave up 18 explosive plays over their first three games, so a matchup against a Packers team without its top two wide receivers in Davante Adams and Allen Lazard seemed like an ideal spot to turn things around this past Monday night. Atlanta proceeded to open that game by giving up plays of 20 or more yards on three of Green Bay’s first nine plays from scrimmage.
For a defense that became the first in NFL history to blow two consecutive fourth-quarter leads of 14 or more points, there appears to be no end in sight.
Injuries have made a struggling unit even worse.
The Falcons were already without starting safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen, cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Darqueze Dennard and defensive end Takk McKinley. Then things got worse during Monday night’s game against Green Bay. Atlanta lost safety Damontae Kazee (Achilles) and strong safety Jaylinn Hawkins (concussion). Fortunately, Terrell is set to return after missing the last two games after being placed on the reserve/COVID list, and McKinley, Allen and Neal were all limited participants in practice this week and had no injury designations entering the weekend.
The Atlanta offense will have to overcome the problems of its struggling defense without the services of All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who missed the second half of Monday night with a hamstring injury. Despite a zero-catch performance last week, Calvin Ridley has emerged as a star for Atlanta in the passing game, catching 21 balls for 349 yards and four touchdowns this season. He’s been limited in practice this week while nursing knee and thigh injuries, but he’s expected to play against Carolina.
While Atlanta managed only 16 points against the Packers, we can expect a bounce-back offensive performance against a Carolina defense that can’t generate a pass rush.
The sand in the hourglass is ticking on Quinn’s tenure in Atlanta.
According to our Bet Labs data, Quinn is just 37-47 (44%) ATS as a head coach and 18-33 (35.3%) ATS as a favorite. Quinn’s Falcons teams haven’t gained much of a home-field advantage either, as they’re just 13-22 (37.1%) ATS in Atlanta.
When you dig deeper into the data, the Falcons are just 6-13 (31.6%) when home favorites of 1 to 3.5 points during Quinn’s tenure.
We’ve seen enough evidence that backing Quinn’s Falcons as favorites is a losing proposition, and to make matters worse, they’re in a tough spot playing on a short week with injuries on both sides of the ball.
My model makes this game a pick’em, but I view this as more of a fade of the Falcons than a play on the Panthers. I liked this better at the opening line of +3.5, but I still like it at +2.5. That said, I think the Panthers have a chance at winning this one outright, so if the spread ticks back down to +2 or lower, I would recommend just playing the moneyline instead.
The Panthers also make a good Stanford Wong six-point teaser leg to pair with New Orleans. (Panthers +8.5/Saints -2.5).
PICK: Panthers +2.5