NFL Preview - Atlanta Falcons - Carolina Panthers
On the last week of the regular season we will take a look at the Atlanta Falcons – Carolina Panthers game. These two division rivals met last time on week 9 when the Panthers won the game 34 – 10.
The Falcons are out of the playoff race while the Panthers have already made sure that they will be in the playoffs. However, the Panthers absolutely need a win this week if they hope to secure the number two playoff seed, something which would allow them to skip next week’s game and advance directly into the next phase of the playoffs.
First a look into the Falcons offence: they average 345.5 yards and 22.2 points per game. They are ranked 12th in overall offence and 6th in passing yards but their running game is the worst in the league, managing an average of under 80 rushing yards per game.
Their quarterback Matt Ryan has been struggling this year but lately he has managed to improve a lot. Last year he was one of the best quarterbacks in the league but now he only has 4235 yards for 24 touchdowns. He has also thrown 16 interceptions and been sacked 35 times this year, the interceptions are quite worrying but the low amount of sacks is definitely a good sign.
Their ineffective running game doesn’t leave us with a lot to look at. Both of their running backs average only 3.5 yards per carry. Lately Steven Jackson has been doing allright and currently has 502 yards and 6 touchdowns, all of the touchdowns being from the last 5 games.
The Falcons have also suffered greatly due to their number one receiver, Julio Jones, being injured early in the season. Since then Matt Ryan has relied on Harry Douglas (1009 yards, 2 touchdowns), Roddy White (620 yards, 2 touchdowns) as well as their veteran tight end Tony Gonzales. (803 yards, 8 touchdowns) This will most likely be Gonzales’ last NFL game so you can expect a lot of balls to be thrown his way.
On the Panthers’ side we have a very different offence which relies a lot less in the passing game. With an average of 319.1 yards per game they are a bit behind the Falcons, but keep in mind that they have managed to score a little more, an average of 23 points per game. In total offence they rank 25th while being 28th in passing and 11th in rushing yards.
Their quarterback Cam Newton has thrown for 3230 yards and 22 touchdowns while running the ball for another 513 yards and 6 touchdowns. And yes, if you looked carefully, he has ran the ball for more yards than any of the Falcons’ running backs.
His favourite receivers have been Steve Smith (745 yards, 4 touchdowns), Brandon LaFell (627 yards, 5 touchdowns, Ted Ginn (550 yards, 4 touchdowns) as well as their tight end Greg Olsen. (774 yards, 5 touchdowns).
Looking at their rushing plays I have to say that the Panthers are one of the most versatile teams in the NFL. They don’t rely solely on their running backs but rather use a combination of three different positions. As mentioned above the QB loves to run, then you also have their running back DeAngelo Williams (810 yards, 3 touchdowns) and to top it all of, they love to run with their big full back Mike Tolbert who has 332 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Defensively this match-up is as simple as it gets. The Falcons have been struggling all year long while the Panthers have without a doubt one of the best defences in the league. The Panthers lead in pretty much every imaginable defensive statistic. The most important are of course the 85 yard lead in yards allowed per game as well as their average of only 14.7 points allowed per game, the lowest of any NFL defence this season.
If the Falcons keep playing like they have during the past couple of weeks this game could be a lot closer than the statistics suggest. However, the Panthers will not leave anything to chance and they will be doing everything they can in order to win this game. The Panthers defence will be a tough nut to crack and their versatile offence should have no problems scoring against the Falcons.
Back the Panthers -5.5 @ 1.917 with Pinnacle
Alternativaly on the exchanges you can back the Panthers -5.5 @ 1.952 with Matchbook
Alex Lucken 2013-2014 Season - Hit Rate 57.9%- Staked 1900.0 Returned 2072.10 ROI 9.1%