NFL Weekly Picks: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

Cam Newton threw 25 of 45 last week with five TD passes.
Cam Newton threw 25 of 45 last week with five TD passes.

Spread: CAR -6.5
Total: 47.5

Betting odds c/o Pincle

The Carolina Panthers survived a close scare by the New York Giants last week but remain undefeated at 14-0 as it travels to face the Atlanta Falcons at Noon Central Time on FOX.

NFL oddsmakers set the line 6.5 points in favor of the Panthers.

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The Panthers had 10 players selected for the Pro Bowl, among which was Cam Newton, Josh Norman and Thomas Davis. The Panthers anticipate clinching the division, while it will take a near-miracle for the Atlanta Falcons to sneak in, with the team now 7-7 and needing a perfect storm of winning while Seattle and Minnesota fail to do so over the next two weeks.

Newton has thrown for 3,402 yards on the season at a 58.8 percent completion clip while posting a passer rating of 98.9. The talented dual-threat QB has thrown 33 TDs with 10 picks on the year and he leads Carolina in rushing TDs with seven. RB Jonathan Stewart does the bulk of ball carrying, and he is just 11 yards shy of 1,000 on the season while having amassed six TDs in his own right.

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Newton’s top target has been TE Greg Olson. Olson has 1,048 yards on the season and seven receiving TDs, bested only by Ted Ginn Jr.’s 10.  Ginn is battling a calf injury but is expected to play.

The Panthers have scored 33 receiving TDs on the year and Newton is averaging 7.7 yards per completed pass. Newton also throws a fair share to Jerricho Cotchery, Devin Funchess and Corey Brown, all of whom have 350 yards or more on the season.

In the win last week over the Giants, Newton threw 25 of 45 for 340 passing yards with five TDs and no INTs. He was sacked three times for a total loss of 31 yards, but Newton also had 100 receiving yards on just eight attempts. Cameron Artis-Payne led the backfield in rushing with 59 yards on 14 attempts (4.2 yards per).

Newton had seven receivers with two catches or more, paced by Ginn Jr.’s 85 yards on six passes with two TDs, though he did catch just six of the 15 passes targeted to him. Olsen had 79 yards on six catches and a TD, while catching 75 percent of the passes sent his way. Newton had a phenomenal week throwing the football, and with the nature of his offensive style it almost seems like some are overlooking just how good his arm is when he chooses to air it out.

The Falcons snapped a six-game losing streak last week with a 23-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. QB Matt Ryan threw 22 of 35 for 246 yards with one TD and one INT, while also incurring one sack. Ryan’s favorite target Julio Jones caught 9 of 13 targeted passes for 118 yards and a TD.

In the backfield Devonta Freeman rushed 25 times for just 56 yards, good for an average of only 2.2 yards per attempt. Outside of Freeman, no other backs were at all productive for the 7-7 Falcons.

Julio Jones has caught 118 passes for 1,544 yards on the season and he has seven TDs. He has fumbled three times, including one lost, but given the immense amount of times he has made plays, it is a rather excusable margin of error. If the Falcons are to pull an upset in this game, it will likely be due to Ryan hooking up with Julio for the majority of the Falcons’ offensive plays.

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