Atlanta (1-6) at Carolina (3-4)
When: Thursday, October 29th, 2020
Where: Bank of America Stadium,
Time: 8:20 ET | TV: FOX
Opening Odds: Carolina -1/51.5
The Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers will play for the second time this month when they get Week 8 action going in the NFL this Thursday night from Charlotte. The Falcons dropped a 23-16 decision at home to the Panthers on Oct. 11 to start the season 0-5. That prompted Atlanta to finally part ways with Dan Quinn and the team went out the following week and beat up the Minnesota Vikings on the road 40-23. Finding even more ways to lose, the Falcons followed that up with a heartbreaking 23-22 loss at home versus the Detroit Lions. The Falcons came one play away from improving to 2-0 under interim coach Raheem Morris. Detroit drove 75 yards in 1:04 and scored the winning touchdown (and extra point) with no time remaining. Atlanta will have to deal with a healthier Carolina squad this time around as All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey is expected back after more than a month’s absence caused by a high ankle sprain. McCaffrey hasn’t played since the second week of the season and the Panthers are in need of some offensive help after consecutive losses to Chicago and New Orleans. Carolina’s defense played poorly in Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Saints, allowing New Orleans to convert on 12-of-14 third-down situations.
The Panthers opened as 2.5-point favorites on the NFL odds with a total of 49 and while the spread hasn’t moved, the total is up to 51.5. The Falcons were 0-4 but favored when they hosted the Panthers in Week 5, and Carolina ended a five-game straight up and against the spread (ATS) losing streak in the series with a 23-16 upset. Teddy Bridgewater threw for 313 yards and two scores, while Robby Anderson hauled in eight catches for 112 yards. Juston Burris made a big interception in the end zone for Carolina but is out injured now. Matt Ryan wasn’t very good, throwing for 226 yards and an interception. The home team is 11-5 against the spread in the past 16 meetings, while the under is 11-3-1 in the previous 15.
In another disaster last week, running back Todd Gurley decided to score a touchdown in the final minute, which opened the door for Detroit’s dramatic win. Gurley did try to fall down right at the end, but it was too late as his momentum pushed the ball over the goal line. The Falcons have now lost fourth-quarter leads in three of their six losses this year. Ryan, who leads the NFL in passing yards, added 338 more versus the Lions, while Gurley finished with two rushing scores. Atlanta is sixth in the league with 401.0 total yards per contest. Atlanta’s defense has improved after allowing 34.5 points a game during an 0-4 start. The last three weeks, they have cut that to 23.0. The Falcons, who are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games away from home, will host Denver next Sunday.
Carolina’s Joey Slye tried what would have been an NFL-record 65-yard field goal late to tie but came up just short in the loss to New Orleans. Bridgewater had only five incompletions and threw for two scores, but he took a bad sack the play before that field-goal attempt. McCaffrey will be welcomed back after the Panthers had 37 yards rushing on 14 carries. So far this season, Bridgewater sits fifth overall in the league with 1,930 passing yards. The defense is ranked 13th in the league (351.1) and 10th versus the pass (227.1). Left tackle Russell Okung (calf) and right guard John Miller (ankle) have missed practice time this week. Carolina will be at Kansas City next week.
I don’t care who’s coaching this Atlanta team – they have a lot of issues. Carolina won the first meeting on the road without McCaffery. They’ll have him back tonight and that will make the difference.
Pick: Panthers -2.5
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