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Carolina vs. Atlanta NFL Preview: Week 17 Free Pick

Carolina Panthers vs Atlanta Falcons NFL Week 17 NFL Gambling & Free Predictions

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Week 17: Panthers vs Falcons Preview & Pick

Date: Sunday, January 2, 2011
Venue: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Broadcast: FOX
Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Betting Lines at BetUS.com
Money Line: OFF
Spread: Falcons -14
Over/Under: 41
Bet now @ BetUs.com!

Carolina Panthers (2-13)

The Andrew Luck watch is on in Carolina. It’s been a trying season to say the least for the last-overall Panthers. Jimmy Clausen doesn’t appear to be the answer; even before the Panthers fell 27-3 to Pittsburgh last week, the Panthers already had the NFL’s lowest-ranked passing attack and overall offense.

Not everything about this team is bad. Jonathan Stewart continues to assert himself as the team’s possible (probable?) featured back for 2011. Believe it or not, his 71 rushing yards last week were very impressive; he saw stacked boxes all night and faced an amazing Steeler run defense that allows an NFL-low 64.1 rushing yards per game.

The Panthers aren’t a joke defensively, ranking 16th overall and 11th against the pass. Opposing offenses at least have to work to beat them.

Atlanta Falcons (12-3)

The Falcons lost at the Georgia Dome? What!? It’s true. After the Saints edged them out on Monday night, the Falcons fell to 19-2 at home with Matt Ryan at quarterback.

It’s probably fair to give Atlanta a mulligan for the loss to New Orleans. The Saints were playing with desperation after a loss to Baltimore the previous week; Atlanta’s defense actually played very well, scoring a touchdown off Drew Brees on a pick-six; and Michael Turner did something he hadn’t done all year when he lost a fumble.

The Falcons still pose a formidable challenge to the lowly Panthers. They have Pro Bowlers at every major skill position: Ryan at quarterback, Turner at running back, Roddy White at wide receiver and Tony Gonzalez at tight end. John Abraham, who leads the team with 13 sacks, also made the NFC squad.

The pick:

The kneejerk reaction among bettors (and me before I did my homework) is to assume the Falcons will lay down on Sunday and rest their starters since they’ve already clinched a playoff spot and have the NFC’s best record.

Not so fast. The Falcons have not clinched the NFC South. If New Orleans wins and they lose, they could relinquish the division and actually lose their bye. So we can expect the Falcons’ top guys to play most if not all of Sunday’s game.

If the game didn’t matter to Atlanta, I’d tell you to back away from the 14 points and pick Carolina. However, a fully loaded Falcons’ roster against a Panthers team averaging a pathetic 12 points per game feels like a safer bet to cover the spread this week. We should expect something similar to the 31-10 margin the last time these two teams met.

Panthers vs Falcons prediction: Falcons 28, Panthers 10

Money Line: OFF
Spread: Falcons -14
Over/Under: UNDER 41

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About Shea Matthews

Shea Matthews the Senior Writer at CP. Lives and breathes sports. He made the transition from athlete to sports journalist at a young age, writing in TV & national papers. Shea applies his knowledge to sports betting + handicapping daily, and shares winning picks with the world.