This Sunday the Carolina Panthers (6-8) will host the Atlanta Falcons (5-9) in a matchup of two teams that expected games to mean a lot more this time of year. Kickoff for this NFC South clash is set for 1:00 EST at Bank of America Stadium and will be televised locally on FOX.

Taking a look at the Week 16 NFL odds, the books opened this game up with Carolina -3.5, but after the Panthers loss to the Saints on Monday Night Football and the recent news that Cam Newton is being shut down, the line has flipped and it’s the Falcons who are 3.5-point favorites. The total for this matchup is currently at 43.5.

Falcons vs Panthers Vegas Betting Preview

Atlanta comes into this one off an impressive 40-14 blowout win at home over the Cardinals, easily covering as a 9-point favorite. The win snapped a 5-game losing streak and showed that while the season may be lost, this team hasn’t thrown in the towel on the final few games.

While Atlanta has to be feeling pretty good about how things went in Week 15, the Panthers suffered an absolutely crushing 12-9 loss at home to the Saints. They covered the game as a 6-point dog, but when you hold Drew Brees and that high-powered New Orleans offense to a mere 12-points, you expect to win. That’s now 6 straight losses for Carolina after they had started out the season 6-2.

These two teams met back in Week 2, which the Falcons won 31-24 as a 6-point home favorite. Atlanta has kind of owned the series of late. The Falcons are both 5-1 SU and 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings.

Free Pick & Predictions: Falcons -3.5

My early lean here would have to be on the Falcons. I had Atlanta circled as a play this week after that loss to the Saints on Monday Night Football. I only like it that much more, given that Carolina is all but throwing in the towel on the season by sitting Cam Newton to rest his injure shoulder. That tells me this team knew that their only hope of making the playoffs was to win that game at home against New Orleans. You could see it on the players faces at the end of that game.

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I just think it’s a really difficult thing to go from playing in what feels like a do-or-die situation, not getting the job done and then have to come out and just play for fun the very next week. The life was sucked out of this team when they lost to the Saints.

Keep in mind the Panthers are going to Taylor Heinicke, who has attempted 5 career passes in his 3 seasons in the NFL. I just think he’s going to struggle to play well in this offense. Carolina doesn’t have a go-to receiver and you can bet that Atlanta is going to put all of their attention on Christian McCaffrey.

As for the Atlanta offense, they finally got back some of their mojo. The Falcons put up 435 yards and 40 points last week against the Cardinals. Matt Ryan was 22 of 36 for 231 yards and 2 scores and I look for them to have no problem exposing this Carolina defense.

I also want to point out that a big reason the Falcons have underachieved this year is the injuries they were dealt early on the defensive side of the ball. They are in a lot better shape on that side of the ball going into the final weeks. They racked up 7 sacks last week against the Cardinals and in just his 3rd game back after missing the previous 10 games, Deion Jones returned a pick for a touchdown. It really seems like that Atlanta defense feeds off of his energy.

Given everything I have covered, I actually think this line should be closer to touchdown than a field goal, as I think the Falcons are going to have this thing in the bag by the half. Give me Atlanta -3.5!