The 6-6 Atlanta Falcons will travel to North Carolina to take on the 12-0 Panthers on Sunday afternoon a week after each team continued on their streaks. For the Panthers, they scored a last minute touchdown to beat the Saints 41-38 to remain unbeaten while the Falcons lost their 5th in a row as they were defeated 23-19 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Atlanta started the season 5-0 but have lost 6 of their last 7 games and have fallen out of first place in the NFC South. For the Panthers, they have now won 16 consecutive regular season games going back to last year.
Carolina remained undefeated thanks to the great play of quarterback Cam Newton who is playing like an MVP candidate. He completed 28 of 41 passes for 331 yards and 5 touchdowns. This was the second game in the last 3 that Newton has thrown for 5 touchdowns. His favorite target was Greg Olsen who had 9 receptions for 129 yards. Ted Ginn Jr. also had a nice game as he had 5 catches for 80 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jonathan Steward led a balanced running game with 21 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown. The offense gained over 500 yards but if there was a negative it is that they committed 3 turnovers. Defensively, they gave up 24 points and while they allowed Drew Brees to throw 3 touchdowns, they had a big interception early in the 4th quarter. They also did a good job of stopping the run as the Saints only gained 70 yards on 14 carries.
Atlanta had a chance to win this game but Matt Ryan threw an interception on the Falcons final drive eliminating any chance for a comeback. It was a mixed day for Ryan as he completed 30 of 45 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown and the 1 costly interception. He didn’t get help from his offensive line as he was sacked 3 times for a loss of 14 yards. They running game struggled as they were only able to gain 64 yards on 18 carries. The defensive line had its struggles as they were only able to sack Jameis Winston once and had 3 tackles for losses. The Buccaneers were also able to rush for 166 yards on only 33 carries. They did force 2 turnovers as they were able to intercept Wilson and recovered a fumble.
The Falcons are 4-8 against the spread this year but are 3-1 when they are the underdog. Carolina is 9-3 against the spread this year and are 4-2 at home. Both teams have a lot to play for as Atlanta needs a win to remain in the playoff hunt and the Panthers can clinch a first round bye with a victory. Carolina’s defense ranks first in the league with 29 forced turnovers which doesn’t bode well for Atlanta who has committed 8 turnovers in the last 3 weeks.
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