The NFL is as much a battle of attrition as it is a skill game – and to that end, the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons are already in trouble as they face off Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Panthers have lost star tight end Greg Olsen and their two starting tackles, while left guard Trai Turner missed practice Wednesday. It’s just as bad for the Falcons, who lost star linebacker Deion Jones and Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal in last week’s loss to Philadelphia.
NFL Point Spread and Betting Analysis
Oddsmakers aren’t punishing the Panthers too much despite their litany of injuries, installing them as 5 ½-point underdogs in this NFC South showdown. They’re just 2-4 ATS in their past six games as road ‘dogs of between 4-7 points; prior to the slump, they had covered six straight in that scenario. Atlanta is on a five-game winning streak against divisional opponents and has successfully covered in four of those games, winning three of them by double digits.
From a totals perspective, these teams live for the under. They’ve gone 2-8 O/U in their previous 10 regular-season meetings, finishing with fewer than 40 combined points six times over that stretch. Atlanta has been a sensational under option on its own, going 3-13 in its previous 16 games and surpassing the total just once in its past 11 against teams with winning records. The Panthers have gone below the number in four of their past five September games.
Think the Panthers are having it rough already? They’ll also have to deal with the distraction of seeing their home state battered by Hurricane Florence, which is expected to do major damage to the Carolina coast over the weekend. On the field, their decimated offensive line will make things difficult for a Panthers run game that looked stout in its season-opening 16-8 win over Dallas, producing 147 yards and a touchdown on 32 rush attempts.
A healthy Falcons defence would give Cam Newton and the Panthers fits – but with Jones and Neal both lost for the season, Atlanta will have to get creative. There are concerns on offence, as well, with starting running back Devonta Freeman dealing with Week 1 soreness that held him out of practice earlier this week. The Falcons come into this one having won each of their previous three home games vs. Carolina, averaging a robust 30 points in those victories.