While the Panthers are under .500, they've played better than most people expected in their first season under new coach Matt Rhule. That includes coming off a loss to the Saints in New Orleans that was neck-and-neck until the end. The Falcons can't take much positive from this season, especially since they're coming off their roughly 800th heartbreaking loss of the season last week against the Lions. But players want to show up for primetime, and they'll all have their chance tonight on Thursday Night Football.
We're going to get you ready for the matchup on the gambling side of things in this space, including what you need to know about each aspect of the game from a betting perspective. All NFL lines via William Hill Sportsbook.
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How to watch
Trends to know
A few trends worth noting, per CBS Sports research: the Panthers are on a 4-1 ATS run since losing star running back Christian McCaffrey, showing the resiliency to play teams close and win games many people hadn't expected they'd win. But this is only the second time all year they've been favored, having lost to the Bears as 1.5-point favorites earlier in the year. The Panthers have lost five straight ATS on Thursday and seven straight ATS on short rest, but again, this is a new regime.
The Falcons have disappointed this season but are 2-1 ATS on the road this season after closing last year with four straight ATS covers. They're 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games against the Panthers despite Carolina covering back in Week 5. The Falcons have a similar run of futility to the Panthers in this spot, with three straight ATS losses on Thursday and four straight ATS losses on short rest.
Falcons at Panthers (-2.5)
This line reopened at Panthers -3 on Sunday night, but it did so while already juiced toward the Falcons. That made it no big surprise when William Hill moved the line down to Panthers -2.5 on Monday morning. After bouncing back to Panthers -3 (+100) overnight, by Tuesday afternoon it was back to Panthers -2.5.
One other bonus trend to note here: Teddy Bridgewater continues to deliver against the spread. He's now 31-10 ATS in his career, the best QB record ATS since 2000. He's also 14-3 ATS following a straight-up loss, which he had last week despite covering the number.
Pick: As you can see, our panel loves the Panthers in this spot and did so even when the line was at Panthers -3. I have a strong play on this game as well, which I shared over at SportsLine, where I'm on a 20-9-1 run overall, a 17-7-1 run ATS and a 32-18 run on spread picks in Falcons games.
Over/Under 51 points
The total for this matchup initially opened at 51.5 on Sunday before crashing down to 49 by Monday afternoon. However, it's back on the rise again on Wednesday, shooting all the way back to the opening number.
Pick: Under 51. I'm not one to follow trends blindly, but let's open by saying that Falcons games in primetime have gone Under eight straight times. Now that that's out of the way, let's give it up for the Panthers defense, which hasn't been nearly as bad as people thought it would be. Only one Panthers game has gone over 51 since Week 1, and that one barely got there in a 31-21 Cardinals win. The Panthers' biggest issue has been defending the run, but that's where the Falcons have struggled on offense as well. Both teams struggle in the red zone, which should lead to more field goals than touchdowns and keep us well under this total.
O/U 25.5 completions
O/U 38.5 attempts
O/U 283.5 passing yards
O/U 1.5 passing TDs (Over -200)
O/U 0.5 interceptions (Under -150)
I don't really love any of these numbers, but if I'm playing anything I'm going Under on Ryan's completions and attempts. That's based mainly on the idea that the gameplan will be to attack the Panthers' defensive weakness by running the ball enough to keep him from getting to the range of 36-42 pass attempts, which is where he's been for six straight starts.
O/U 26.5 completions
O/U 37.5 attempts
O/U 282.5 passing yards
O/U 1.5 passing TDs (Over -200)
O/U 0.5 interceptions (Over -125)
The totals here are a bit high for Bridgewater, but there's a reason: The Falcons have the worst net yards per pass attempt in the league. The Panthers QB hit a long touchdown to D.J. Moore in the first meeting between these teams, and I'd expect him to do it again. So let's fire on a prop that isn't listed above and go with Over 37.5 yards for Bridgewater's longest completion.
More props to consider
Todd Gurley Over 62.5 rushing yards
Gurley has only gone over this total three times this year despite averaging 69.3 rushing yards per game, but he tends to go over when he can post a high yards per carry mark (somewhat obviously). That's key in this matchup, as the Panthers are 28th in the league in yards per rush allowed (4.9). If Gurley can reach that mark in 13 carries, he gets there, and he's had at least 14 carries in every game. That includes his best game of the year, a 121-yard performance that came against (drum roll) the Panthers.
Younghoe Koo Over 1.5 field goals made (-115)
Stick with me on this one: Koo's total points over/under is at 6.5 with juice on the Over, but his total made extra points number is at 2.5 and heavily juiced to the Under at -170. Do the math and you'd clearly be expecting him to kick at least two field goals, right? Well, the total made field goal number is 1.5 with even juice on each side. I think the Over on his total points is the right side, but I'm much happier getting -110 on the field goals here with a kicker that has missed just one of his 16 attempts all year on a team that only ranks 23rd in red-zone success rate.
D.J. Moore Over 68.5 receiving yards
We know that the Panthers are likely to hit a big play in the passing game, so we'll want to take the Over on at least one of their receivers' yardage total. And I think both top guys are probably going to hit, but I'd say Moore is the safer option. He's hit exactly 93 yards in each of his last three games and has an 18.3 yards per reception number that dwarfs the 13.9 yards per reception mark of Robby Anderson. But Anderson is averaging 91.4 yards per game and has a great shot of going Over 74.5 yards as well. Still, let's play the lower number with the better big-play threat.