The Falcons are the least pathetic team in the pathetic NFC South


Marcus Maariota and Tyler Allgeier of the surprising Falcons.

Marcus Maariota and Tyler Allgeier of the surprising Falcons.
Image: Getty Images

Another week means another heavy underdog getting tons of money thrown its way. This is interesting because the dog seems to win when bettors throw a lot of money behind it. Just this season, most of the reviews I’ve written about have surrounded the 6-1 New York Giants. Big Blue has an incredible ability to control the pace of play, dominate time of possession, yet still manage big plays — a big reason for their success despite an obvious lack of talent.

The G-Men have worked their way out of the underdog hole it seems. Instead, a new contender has joined the fray— the Carolina Panthers, who are being quarterbacked by a former XFL MVP, P.J. Walker.

According to OddsChecker US, 60 percent of moneyline bets on the upcoming Panthers-Falcons game have gone in favor of Carolina, who will be the road team in this contest.hat might actually be an advantage. The Panthers have won their last two road matchups against Atlanta and within this series, the road team has wound up winning each of the last four and five of the last six.

Furthermore, it’s hard to pass up on the Carolina Panthers after Walker and company just dominated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-3. That said, the Falcons are 2-1 at home this year with a win over the 49ers, so how reliable is the betting trend really?

The Dirty Birds run the ball at the second-highest rate in the NFL (60.6 percent) — ahead of only the Chicago Bears (64 percent). The Carolina Panthers have one of the best run defenses in the NFL, at least in terms of yards allowed per carry (4.1 yards allowed per rush — seventh in NFL). They’re also top-10 in defensive first down rush percentage (23.4 percent), and actually lead the NFL in expected points added by their rushing defense (22.17), according to Pro-Football-Reference.

After everything I just said, you’d probably think I’d be leaning heavily into Carolina’s favor as well, but I’m not. Why? Because San Francisco also has an elite run defense, and the Atlanta Falcons dominated the Niners.

Using the run game to open up the passing attack is what made Atlanta so dominant in that game. The Falcons weren’t very effective running the ball. Caleb Huntley and Tyler Allgeier averaged less than four yards per carry. Sure, that’s pretty par for the course for any team playing against the 49ers, but unless you’re averaging close to five yards per carry, most teams tend to run the ball less as the game progresses. Not Atlanta. The Falcons ran the ball with either Huntley or Allgeier 31 times, with 14 of those carries coming in the first half before any normal team would start giving into game script. That doesn’t include runs by QB Marcus Mariota or Avery Williams either. That number would be way higher if that was the case.

In the passing game, Mariota went 13-for-14 through the air. We all know he isn’t the most accurate quarterback, but even he was able to dissect the 49ers defense. Was a lot of it due to great play design by head coach Arthur Smith? Probably. However, at least in the first half, most of Atlanta’s big pass plays didn’t come off play action or quick screen passes. They were just either good pre-snap reads, Atlanta receivers finding a hole in coverage, or Mariota stepping up and making a play with his legs. Sure, the touchdown to MyCole Pruitt was off play action, but in terms of the drive down the field almost all of these aerial plays were on basic dropbacks. Same goes for the Falcon’s second touchdown drive capped off with a Mariota rushing TD.

While Carolina’s offense looked somewhat potent last week, I’m not ready to call a team led by Walker, DJ Moore, and D’Onta Foreman better than San Francisco. Atlanta’s defense was able to handle a Christian McCaffrey-less 49ers team and shouldn’t have a more difficult time with a Run CMC-less Panthers team. There’s just no way I see the Panthers handling the Falcons as well as bettors seem to assume. Considering the San Franmanhandled the Panthers just a few weeks ago, I’m leaning heavily in Atlanta’s favor. Sure, Carolina has arguably a better quarterback now, but that won’t be enough to grant a win. Give me Atlanta minus-four.



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