Welcome to the Thursday Night Football betting breakdown, where each week I’ll provide a detailed betting overview of the upcoming Thursday Night Football game utilizing moneyline, points spread and projected total odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. I’ll also highlight at least one player- or game-based prop each week that I feel has profit potential.
This Week 8 NFC South battle features a pair of struggling squads in the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers doing battle at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The visiting Falcons are 1-1 under interim coach Raheem Morris, but they’re 1-6 overall on the campaign and are coming off a heartbreaking 23-22 loss to the Lions. The Panthers come into this game having dropped consecutive games to the Bears and Saints by a combined 10 points.
There is a significant health-related story to monitor for each side. For Atlanta, Julio Jones is now dealing with a hip injury, which led to his limited participation in Tuesday’s practice. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey (ankle) was officially designated for return from injured reserve Tuesday and participated in the day’s practice. Coach Matt Rhule is not ruling out the possibility his star running back suits up versus the Falcons.
All betting takes will be classified as a “pick”, with considerations such as relevant injuries, past betting trends and recent performances of each team leading up to the game factoring in.
For more detailed information on this week’s matchup – including further game analysis, betting trends breakdown, betting tips specific to TNF, and a synopsis of the history of the line movement for the game, please see our Thursday Night Football Betting Preview over at TheLines.
Panthers vs. Falcons odds
This is a matchup of two teams with similarly potent offenses and inconsistent defenses. The Panthers counter the Falcons’ explosive wideout duo of Jones and Calvin Ridley with Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore. Carolina has the edge at running back by very wide margin when McCaffrey is healthy. They arguably retain it even when Mike Davis is the starter. The Falcons’ Todd Gurley is averaging a serviceable 4.0 yards per carry but clearly doesn’t have the same explosion and quickness he once did.
Matt Ryan has the more aesthetically pleasing statistics between he and Teddy Bridgewater. However, Ryan has indirectly benefited from the fact the Atlanta defense was bad enough during Dan Quinn’s five-game 2020 tenure at the helm that he had to throw a bunch to try and keep up. In fact, even though the Falcons have had the benefit of running a more balanced offensive attack in Morris’s first two games as head coach, they’re still passing at a top-10 rate (61.1 percent).
Bridgewater has thrown two more interceptions than Ryan’s three, but he’s hit the ground running on his new squad. He’s posted a pair of 300-yard efforts and completed at least 70.3 percent of his passes in five of seven contests. He’s not just doing it on a hefty diet of short completions either – Bridgewater is averaging a career-high 8.2 yards per attempt. His chemistry with Anderson and Moore was instant as well, even without the benefit of preseason. The two have combined for 77 of Bridgewater’s 169 completions, 1,207 of his 1,930 passing yards and four of his passing touchdowns. The pair also generated a combined 12-205-1 line against Atlanta in a Week 5 road win for the Panthers, and the Falcons check in allowing the second-most passing yards per contest (333.4), including 364.3 per their trio of road games.
Part of the reason the Falcons have been attacked frequently through the air is that they’ve actually successfully funneled a lot of action in that direction by being especially good against the ground attack. Atlanta surrenders just 3.5 yards per carry to backs. However, their coverages/schematic deficiencies rear their head here too. The Falcons are allow the second-most receptions (51), fifth-most receiving yards (350) and most receiving touchdowns (four) to running backs, which certainly doesn’t bode well against the pass-catching acumen of either McCaffrey or Davis, or the combination of both they might see Thursday.
On the other side, Carolina has allowed a stingy 108.3 rushing yards per home game. With Gurley averaging a pedestrian 4.0 yards per carry – even after surprisingly hitting Carolina on a few good runs in Week 5 on his way to a season-high 121 rushing yards – he could certainly have trouble generating consistent gains. The Panthers also allow the second-fewest passing yards per game (190.0) of any team on its home field. They held Ryan to a season-low 56.0 percent completion rate in Week 5, although Jones did miss that game with hamstring injury.
With the Panthers at home and matchups tilting in their favor, I like Carolina’s chances of a win, even more so if McCaffrey is available.
The Pick: Panthers moneyline (-200 or better)
TNF Point Spread
The Falcons are 2-5 (28.6 percent) against the spread this season, including 2-1 (66.7 percent) as a road team and 0-1 in division games
The Panthers are 4-3 (57.1 percent) against the spread this season, including 1-2 (33.3 percent) as a home team and 2-1 (66.7 percent) in division games.
The Panthers have enough weapons in the air attack to exploit the Falcons’ deficiencies in the secondary. Whether or not McCaffrey is available, I lean toward Carolina having enough to notch the home win by at least a field goal.
The Lean: Panthers -2 or better
TNF Over/Under Total
The Over is 4-3 (57.1 percent) in Atlanta’s games this season, including 2-1 (66.7 percent) in its away games and 0-1 in its games against division opponents.
The Over is 3-4 (42.9 percent) in Carolina’s games this season, including 1-2 (33.3 percent) in its home games and 2-1 (66.7 percent) in its games against NFC South opponents.
Assuming Jones suits up for this contest, I can see each team’s impressive offensive pieces doing enough to eclipse this manageable total.
The Pick: Over 49.0 points or better
Best TNF Prop Bet
Robby Anderson Over 78.5 receiving yards (-115 or better)
As alluded to earlier, Anderson has enjoyed a sizable and consistent role in the Panthers offense. The speedster also lit up Atlanta’s secondary for an 8-112 line on a team-leading 12 targets in Carolina’s Week 5 win. Given the Falcons’ considerable struggles defending the pass on the road and the fact Anderson has eclipsed this yardage threshold in four of seven games (including two of three home contests), I’m in the camp of the Over.