Both teams will have something to play for in Week 17 when the Atlanta Falcons host the Carolina Panthers. Game time is set for 4:25 EST on Sunday, December 31 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Fans can watch the game on Fox.
Oddsmakers list the Falcons as 4-point favorites at home. That line has increased after Atlanta opened as a 2.5-point favorite. The over/under is set at 46.5 points. Click here for a full list of the Week 17 betting odds and links to more game previews.
Falcons vs Panthers Vegas Betting Preview
The Falcons definitely need to win this game more. With a win, Atlanta will lock up a spot in the playoffs one year after representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. But if the Falcons lose, they’ll have to rely on the Seahawks losing in order to sneak into the playoffs. Despite last week’s loss to the Saints, the Falcons have won five of their last seven games to get them to 9-6 and in control of their own destiny.
Meanwhile, the Panthers are trying to win the NFC South and earn a home playoff game. Carolina has won seven of their last eight games and is currently tied with New Orleans at 11-4. But having lost twice to the Saints this year, the Panthers need to beat the Falcons and hope the Saints lose in order to win the division. Otherwise, Carolina could end up being a 12-4 wild card team and needing three road wins to reach the Super Bowl.
When these two teams met in Week 9, the Panthers held on for a 20-17 win at home. Statistically, that game was even, so fans should expect an equally competitive game this time around.
Free Pick & Predictions: Panthers +4
With the line now at more than a field goal, I have to lean toward Carolina. Even with their playoff hopes on the line, I’m not sure I trust the Falcons to come through in a must-win game. I’m definitely not confident that they’ll be able to win by more than a field goal. I’ll take my chances with Carolina and the points.
Atlanta hasn’t quite made their new home into a fortress this season. The Falcons are just 4-3 at home this year, and they’ve been most susceptible against teams that play good defense like the Vikings and Bills. Last time the Falcons played at home, Matt Ryan threw three interceptions and Atlanta was lucky to escape with a win.
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Ryan’s play remains a concern for the Falcons and makes me shy away from leaning toward Atlanta. He’s been up and down all season, including an extended slump the entire month of December. Now he has to face a tough Carolina defense that won’t make it easy for him to get back on track.
To be fair, Ryan threw for over 300 yards against the Panthers earlier this year. The Carolina defense has also looked a little more vulnerable the second half of the season. However, the Panthers have been good at stopping the run for most of the season. The Falcons managed just 53 yards and 2.9 yards per rush on the ground against Carolina earlier this year. If Atlanta can’t run the ball better this time around, it’ll put more pressure on Ryan to win the game by himself. That may not be a winning strategy for the Falcons considering Ryan’s recent play.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta defense has to contend with Cam Newton, who has come on strong late in the season. To be fair, Newton has had a couple bad games and doesn’t always post big numbers. But he makes big plays when the Panthers need him to. He’s also running a lot more than he was early in the season, making him a nightmare for opposing defenses.
To me, this game is a coin flip, and so I just can’t side with Atlanta -4. The Falcons have just one win by more than a field goal in their last six games. I see the Panthers as the better team, and if Atlanta wins, it won’t be by more than a field goal. I feel good leaning toward Carolina in this matchup.