Are the Atlanta Falcons for real? Are the Panthers better than their record? Let's dive into these questions and preview more Week 14 action.
First off, this line is on the verge of moving off the key number of "3". It sits at -3.25 across the board, so you can still get an affordable -3 for a little extra juice (odds from SBRforum).
The line movement on this game was small, but significant. In the look-ahead line Vegas was putting up -2.5, but after the results in Week 13 it re-opened at -3. Money has steadily come in on the Falcons, which is the smart thing to do. For whatever reason that I'm still not aware, the so-called sharp minds out there have been fading Atlanta all season. Well guess what experts, they are 7-4-1 ATS this season. Do they have flaws? Yes, every team does. That shouldn't undermind what they've accomplished so far or undermine what they are good at. I'll lay the field goal and trust the mismatches.
The Carolina Panthers are an Enigma
Usually at this point in the season we have a pretty firm grasp of who teams are given all the data available. For most of the year sharps thought the Panthers were far better than their record indicated, but it was led by a mistake-prone Cam Newton and befuddled head coach in Ron Rivera. This made them virtually unbackable.
Over recent weeks Newton has eliminated a lot of the dumb errors and played pretty good ball. The problem? The coach is still driving in reverse and the defense has taken some erroneous steps back.
In fact, Rivera came out and said that he will continue to give his young guys increased reps so they can evaluate the roster with an eye on next season. This is the part of the article I would insert a record screeching to a halt. Normally we don't benefit from this kind of insight unless it's the preseason or Week 17. His approach makes sense for the guy replacing him, but I'm not sure he's going to be around to follow up on his assessments.
Statistically, it's hard to figure out this Carolina team as they rank near the middle of the pack in all the important categories I look at. For whatever reason, it's not translating into wins. In back to back weeks they've given up big yards on the ground and folded when the game was on the line.
The Falcons Are For Real
As mentioned in my market review, what is the deal with smart money fading this team this season? Are they blind? Stubborn? What gives? When I look back and realize I was probably one of the only people on the planet who made them a best bet of the week against the Eagles, I'm baffled. The entire planet bet the Eagles coming off a bye and completely disregarded the Atlanta as a legitimate team.
That's fine by me. If Vegas want to give me favorable lines like this one every week, I have no problem taking it.
Their two biggest weaknesses are running the ball and stopping the run, but there are signs that these areas could improve in coming weeks. Rodgers is being given an increased role as Turner looks more and more on the decline. Weatherspoon is going to give the front seven a much needed boost in the tackling department, so opposing running games are not going to have free will to dictate the action.
Samuel is laboring with a shoulder injury, but the Panthers offense have injury concerns of their own. Stewart will be irrelevant thanks to a high ankle sprain and LaFell is in a walking boot.
I give the Panthers a pass last week given the situation in KC, but this week they'll have to prove they can man up and slow down this Atlanta offense.
That's not something I see happening. If they can establish a ground game, Ryan will have his way in the air all day long. Heck, even without a running game they've been great on offense for most of the season. They also have the benefit of better average starting field position and better overall special teams than the Panthers.
I've upgraded this pick to a best bet of the week. That might not be the brightest idea to do with a road team, but the flip side is a favorable point spread since Vegas have no choice but to factor in home field on the line. Well here's a newsflash, the Panthers are 1-5 ATS at home while the Falcons are 4-1-1 ATS on the road. Sign me up.
NFL Pick: ATL -3.