The reeling Carolina Panthers will hit the road in Week 8, as they get set to face divisional foes the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina's 3-0 start is a distant memory at this point and fades further with every week, while Atlanta will try to extend a two-game win streak against a fellow NFC South team.
Here are our free NFL betting picks and predictions for Panthers vs. Falcons, with kickoff on October 31.
Panthers vs Falcons odds
Odds via the Covers Line, an average comprised of odds from multiple sportsbooks.
The lined opened on Monday at Falcons -2.5 but was quickly bet to -3, where it has remained for most of the week as of Wednesday evening. After hitting the board at 47.0, action on the Under dropped the total to 46.0.
Panthers vs Falcons picks
Picks made on 10/27/2021 at 5:30 p.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Panthers vs Falcons game info
• Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GA
• Date: Sunday, October 31, 2021
• Time: 1:00 p.m. ET
• TV: FOX
Panthers at Falcons betting preview
Panthers: C.J. Henderson CB (Out), Terrace Marshall WR (Out), Christian McCaffrey RB (Out), Jaycee Horn CB (Out), Phil Hoskins DT (Out).
Falcons: Calvin Ridley WR (Out), John Cominsky DT (Out), Dante Fowler Jr. DE (Out), Isaiah Oliver CB (Out).
Find our latest NFL injury reports.
Betting trend to know
The Panthers are 1-6 ATS vs. the Falcons in the last seven meetings between these two NFC South foes. Find more NFL betting trends for Panthers vs. Falcons.
Panthers vs Falcons predictions
Falcons -3 (-110)
The Panthers are falling apart, as they go to Georgia on a four-game losing streak SU and ATS. Christian McCaffrey's injury has derailed the offense, as it has slowly sunk in most metrics. In the midst of a wildly terrible performance against the Giants last week, Sam Darnold was benched but Matt Rhule has made it clear he's sticking with Darnold — and he has little choice otherwise, with Darnold guaranteed nearly $20 million next year and backup PJ Walker doing even worse in relief last week.
The saving grace for Carolina is the continued performance of its defense, which has remained in the top half of the league in weighted DVOA and in the Top 10 in pass defense, and will get healthier at the second level and in the secondary soon. In an offense-driven league, however, a strong defense can only get you so far — especially when the quarterback is actively hurting the team, as has been the case with Darnold in recent weeks.
While Darnold's performances offer only pessimism for the Panthers, recent showings from Matt Ryan are promising for the Falcons.
After a slow start, Atlanta's offense has improved to 25th in weighted DVOA, after a four-spot jump this week. Ryan's growing comfort in the offense is apparent, as he has played four straight games with an adjusted yards per attempt over 7.8 (typically a Top 10 mark league-wide) while throwing 10 touchdowns and one pick during that time. We've previously seen Ryan take to a play-action-heavy scheme brilliantly, and it appears he's trending in that direction again.
With little reason to expect an improvement from the Panthers, and the Falcons hosting here, we like Atlanta to cover the field goal spread as Ryan and the offense do enough in a tough matchup.
Under 46 (-110)
Carolina comes into Week 8 after flatlining in Week 7. Its disastrous performance in New York featured 53 scoreless minutes to finish the game, after a field goal opened the scoring, and Darnold benched in favor of spring football legend PJ Walker.
With Darnold regressing rapidly, a once-great connection with Robby Anderson far in the past, and McCaffrey sidelined, the Panthers' offense cannot be depended on at all, despite the best intentions of OC Joe Brady.
Despite the Panthers' fairly bright start to the year on offense, their season-long metrics already tell the story of a bad attack, as they rank 30th in offensive DVOA, 27th in yards per drive, and 24th in points per drive. If we're going Over 46 points here, we're going to need a great day from the Falcons' offense. About that.
Not only is Atlanta coming up against a good defense here but it's a unit that matches up well with the Falcons' strengths. What makes the Falcons interesting, if not good, on offense, is their ability to create mismatches. Kyle Pitts has come alive as former Titans OC and current Falcons HC Arthur Smith has fully leaned into using him like AJ Brown, while Cordarrelle Patterson has been optimized for the first time in his career.
The ability to scheme mismatches is effective against defenses that don't disguise or are relatively simple in a line-up-and-play way, but the Panthers' defense is not that. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow has been effectively running multiple personnel packages for years now and blends his scheme in a given matchup with great success. It's also a defense with several hybrid defenders who aren't going to be exploited in space, despite Smith's best attempts at getting Pitts or Patterson into 1-on-1s.
With the Panthers' offense impossible to back for the time being and the Falcons' offense in a bad matchup, take the Under in Atlanta.
Kyle Pitts Under 61.5 receiving yards (-115)
Kyle Pitts was one of the most exciting tight end prospects to enter the NFL in recent memory and dwarfed the expectations that were around fellow Top 6 pick, Vernon Davis, when he entered the league 15 years ago. After a relatively quiet start, the Pitts breakout has begun to reach a boil, with 20 catches, 332 yards, and a score over his last three weeks, while drawing a 21 percent target share over that span.
Coming on the back of a nuclear 7-catch, 163-yard showing in Week 7 against the Dolphins, Pitts' receiving yards total is understandably fairly high in Week 8, coming in at 61.5 (a total he has finished Under three times this year). However, while expectations around Pitts on a week-to-week basis are justified, this is a great spot to fade the rookie.
The Panthers are as modern of a defense as you'll find in the NFL, with defensive coordinator Phil Snow bringing his brilliantly adaptable scheme from his time at Baylor. Both Shaq Thompson and Jeremy Chinn have the ability to match up with even the most freaky tight ends — like Pitts — and follow them across the formation and carry them down the field. Neither Thompson nor Chinn, two shining examples of hybrid defenders, have allowed more than 54 percent of targets to be completed in coverage this season.
Carolina's defense has effectively limited tight ends throughout the year, including erasing Dallas Goedert, the best tight end it has faced yet, to the tune of two catches for 28 yards. While it won't be a great day for the Panthers overall, they'll have a successful day limiting the Falcons' rookie phenom.