The 11-4 Carolina Panthers will travel to Atlanta to take on the 9-6 Falcons in this week 17 Sunday afternoon matchup. Both teams still have something to play for despite coming off very different weeks. Carolina clinched a spot in the playoffs with a nice come from behind 22-19 home win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With a win this week coupled with a New Orleans Saints loss the Panthers can win the NFC South championship. Atlanta suffered a 23-13 road loss to the New Orleans Saints ending their chance at winning the NFC South. Twice they failed to score while being inside the Saints 2 yard line. They are still alive however and a win over Carolina will give them the last wild card slot.
Carolina was able to defeat Tampa Bay despite the poor play of Cam Newton who finished with a quarterback rating of 18. He completed 16 of 25 passes for 160 yards, 0 touchdowns and 1 interception. His favorite target was Brenton Bersin who had 3 catches for 45 yards. They had some success running the ball gaining 115 yards. Cam Newtown led the team with 52 yards and the teams only touchdown on 14 carries. For the season, the Panthers offense has averaged 23.5 points and 343 yards per game. Defensively, they allowed the Buccaneers to gain 433 yards of offense including 367 in the air. Four different Buccaneer receivers had catches that gained at least 36 yards. They did a good job against the run as they allowed just 66 yards on 24 carries which is an average of 2.8 yards per rush.
Atlanta had their chances against New Orleans but 2 key turnovers cost them great scoring chances. Matt Ryan played decent finishing with a passer rating of 84. He completed 22 of 36 passes for 288 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He was also sacked 5 times for a loss of 24 yards. His favorite target was Julio Jones who had 7 catches for 149 yards. They struggled running the ball gaining just 67 yards with Devonta Freeman leading the team with 36 yards on 11 carries. On the year, the Falcons offense has averaged 22 points and 374 yards per game. Defensively, they played well limiting the Saints to just 323 yards of offense including 239 in the air. They intercepted Drew Breen once and 6 tackles for losses. They did a good job against the rush limiting the Saints to 86 yards on 31 carries which is an average of 2.8 yards per run.
Atlanta will have home field advantage and are favored by 3.5 points. Having already clinched a playoff spot, the Panthers could choose to rest some of their players while the Falcons either win or go home. Carolina has gone 9-6 against the spread this season including 5-2 on the road. Atlanta has gone 6-9 against the spread including 4-3 at home. Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be rocking with the Falcons season on the line.
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