Falcons vs. Panthers: NFC South Rivals Face Off Sunday Afternoon Inside Bank of America Stadium

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Sunday, 12/11/11, 1:00 PM EST, TV:  FOX
Opening Point Spread:  Atlanta -3
Current Betting Line:  Atlanta -3
Opening Total:  48.5
Current Total:  47.5
Odds Courtesy of Bookmaker

Falcons Panthers NFL Game Preview
The Atlanta Falcons will be led offensively by running back Michael Turner Sunday

Atlanta looks to bounce back from a 17-10 loss to the Houston Texans as one-point road favorites last week, but that’s been a good situation for this franchise.  The Falcons are 18-6 ATS in their last 24 games following a straight-up loss.  All eyes will be on running back Michael Turner, who has managed to gain 707 combined rushing yards over the last seven meetings against the Carolina Panthers, including a season-high 139 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6.  Atlanta is 0-3 ATS on a grass field this year with the ‘under’ cashing in two of three contests.

The Falcons have tallied a 5-2 record against the Panthers under Mike Smith’s watch, including three consecutive wins in the series.  Atlanta is 21-1 when running back Michael Turner has 23 or more rushing attempts, as he sits eight yards from 1,000 rushing yards.  On the defensive end, the team will need to try and contain a Carolina offense that averages 397.6 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the league.

Carolina will finish out its season series with its NFC South rival Sunday, which will also serve as the first time he’ll face a particular opponent twice in his career.  “It’s kind of strange for me, this is the first opportunity in my life I’ve had to play the same team in the same season,” commented Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton.  It’s important to note that from the 2005-09 campaigns, Carolina lost the first matchup against its divisional foes six times, only to win the rematch in each instance.  Carolina is 3-3 ATS as an underdog this year.

The Panthers rush defense ranks 27th against the run and will certainly be up against it Sunday, but they did manage to limit the Buccaneers to just 78 rushing yards last week.  Carolina will need to protect the football to pull of this slight upset, as the team is 0-8 when Newton turns the ball over, while posting a 4-0 when not turning the ball over.  A win this afternoon would be the Falcons fourth in a row in this particular series, which would be the longest since the 2000-02 campaigns.  Quarterback Matt Ryan will need to rebound from posting a season-low 50.6 passer rating last week.

Bettors will likely back the Falcons due to their 15-5-1 ATS mark versus a losing record, while the Panthers are 4-11 ATS as an underdog.

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