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Falcons vs. Panthers prediction: Back Atlanta as a small road favorite on TNF

Atlanta’s superior rushing attack and run defense should be the difference in rematch of Week 8 thriller

Carolina Panthers running back D'Onta Foreman is pushed out of bounds by Atlanta Falcons defensive back Cornell Armstrong during a game on Oct. 30. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers running back D'Onta Foreman is pushed out of bounds by Atlanta Falcons defensive back Cornell Armstrong during a game on Oct. 30. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)Read moreTodd Kirkland / Getty Images

Cynics undoubtedly will look at the Falcons vs. Panthers matchup that kicks off Week 10, quickly do the math on Amazon’s $1 billion-per-year Thursday Night Football deal and quip, “Amazon is paying $67 million for this?!?”

But less than two weeks ago, the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers engaged in what is easily a candidate for NFL Game of the Year. After combining for 34 points through three quarters, the NFC South rivals put up 35 points in the last 15 minutes. The final six came on Carolina’s game-tying, 62-yard Hail Mary touchdown with 12 seconds to play, which was followed by a missed extra point that sent the game to overtime.

What can we expect for an encore on Thursday in Carolina? Probably a lot less edge-of-the-seat, end-of-game drama.

Whatever the case, it’s a lock that far more fans will tune in to Round 2 of Falcons vs. Panthers than Round 1. And here’s how we envision this Thursday Night Football contest playing out from a wagering perspective.

Note: Odds updated as of 9:30 a.m. ET on Nov. 10.

Falcons vs. Panthers Prediction

  1. Falcons -2.5, -105 (at FanDuel)

Falcons vs. Panthers Prediction: Analysis

Make no mistake: Atlanta had no business beating the Panthers at home on Oct. 30.

After blowing a 21-13 advantage entering the fourth quarter, the Falcons rallied to take a 34-28 lead on a field goal with 36 seconds left. Then they inexcusably let Carolina third-string quarterback P.J. Walker convert the Hail Mary to a far-too-open D.J. Moore.

However, Moore was subsequently penalized for excessive celebration. That pushed the PAT attempt to 48 yards, and Panthers kicker Eddie Pineiro barely missed.

Given a chance at redemption midway through overtime, Pineiro biffed again, shanking a 32-yard, game-winning chip shot. Atlanta took advantage of the gift four minutes later, kicking a field goal for a 34-31 win.

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So what did the Falcons do for a follow-up in Week 9? They blew multiple leads to the Chargers, who kicked a field goal at the buzzer for a 20-17 victory as a 2.5-point road favorite.

Thus, Atlanta (4-5 SU, 6-3 ATS) has failed to cover in three straight games after opening the season an NFL-best 6-0 ATS.

And yet despite all this — and despite the fact Carolina has split its last four home games, including a stunning 21-3 win over Tampa Bay — we are still siding with the Falcons. Because we simply do not trust the Panthers (2-7 SU, 3-6 ATS). On either side of the ball.

Starting on offense, Carolina’s 21-point fourth quarter outburst at Atlanta was clearly an aberration. Because otherwise, it has scored more than 21 points just twice in eight games this season: a 22-14 win over the Saints; a 26-24 loss to the Browns, both at home.

The Panthers had Baker Mayfield at quarterback and Christian McCaffrey at running back in both those games. As was the case at Atlanta 10 days ago, neither will be wearing a Panthers helmet Thursday.

Flip to the other side of the ball and Carolina has given up 24 or more points — and an average of 33.2 points — in five of its last six games. The exception? That inexplicably dreadful performance by Tom Brady and the Bucs in Week 7.

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One could argue that the Falcons’ defense has been just as bad, if not worse. After all, Atlanta ranks 31st in total defense and dead last in passing defense.

However, when it comes to running the football and stopping the run, Atlanta has been terrific. The Falcons sit fourth in rushing offense (163 yards per game) and eighth in rushing defense (107 ypg allowed).

Conversely, Carolina is 22nd in rushing offense (15.3) and 28th in rushing defense.

Finally, even though the underdog has covered five straight times in this rivalry, series history remains on Atlanta’s side. The Falcons are 11-3 SU and 10-4 ATS in the last 14 meetings overall and 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four trips to Carolina.

Average victory margin in those four road victories: 14 points.

It’s unlikely the Falcons win that easily Thursday. But they should prevail by at least a field goal — so long as they don’t do boneheaded things like give up 62-yard Hail Mary conversions.

Lay the 2.5 points at FanDuel.

Falcons vs. Panthers Odds (via FanDuel):

  1. Point spread: Falcons (-2.5, -105) @ Panthers (+2.5, -115)

  2. Moneyline: Falcons (-144) @ Panthers (+122)

  3. Total: 42.5 points (Over -106/Under -114)

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

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