Free NFL Pick: Atlanta at Carolina 12-12-2010

December 11, 2010

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Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

Sunday December 12th, 2010 1:00 PM EST

Line: Atlanta -8

Overview:

This one could get ugly. Every once in a great while, the best team in the NFL squares off with the worst team in the NFL. This week presents such a matchup, as the 10-2 Falcons take on the 1-11 Panthers. The Falcons haven’t lost since week six. They continue to impress and look like they are going to skip into the playoffs this season.

The Panthers have only one victory this season. It looks like they should lock up the number one spot in the draft, but with so many needs, it is unclear what direction they are going to go. The Panthers made very few moves this off season that benefited their football team. They lost Julius Peppers to free agency and DeAngelo Williams and Jon Beason are on the IR. The Panthers have little to hope for and should consider being anything but double digit underdogs to a team like the Falcons to be an accomplishment.

Keys to the Game:

  • Roddy White is unstoppable. He is on pace to surpass 1500 yards receiving with 121 catches. His 1140 yards rank third in the NFL. White is having an All-Pro year and is 1/2 of one of the best Quarterback-Wide receiver connections in the NFL today. He makes plays consistently throughout the game, but plays his best when everything is on the line. Ryan has a tremendous amount of confidence in him and allows him the opportunity to go up and make plays. He is facing the Panthers secondary, which has done surprisingly well this season.
  • The Panthers only allow 206 yards a game through the air. Not bad for a team who has only won a single game. The fact of the matter is, not many teams need to resort to throwing the ball against the Panthers. The Panthers allow teams to build up a comfortable lead against them by running the ball effortlessly. Once they are ahead, there is no reason for teams to air the ball out. Even so, the job Captain Munnerlyn and Richard Marshall have done is commendable.
  • Michael Turner is going to destroy Carolina by himself. There is no such thing as a sure thing, but it seems safe to say that Turner is going to have a monster day on the ground barring some sort of miracle from Carolina or tragedy for Atlanta. Turner has rushed for 100 yards in six games this season. He looks like he could approach 30 carries this week, as the Falcons will want to establish the running game early and often. With no Jon Beason to worry about, it is unlikely that Turner will see any sort of resistance from Carolina. He should be able to follow Sam Baker to daylight.

Key Matchup:

Steve Smith Vs. Atlanta’s Secondary

  • Jonathan Stewart might have posted big days against Cleveland and Seattle, but it’s not happening this week. That puts all the pressure on Steve Smith. For Smith to have a big day, the offensive line is going to have to hold off John Abraham and the Falcons. If Jimmy Clausen has time, he stands a chance at getting the ball down the field to Smith. Smith has struggled this season, but remains the only real threat that the Panthers have.
  • If there was ever a time for a big game, this would be it. If Smith performs, the Panthers have a shot at covering. If he doesn’t there is no way they are going to be able to keep up with Atlanta.

Wrap Up:

I don’t understand this spread. The Panthers are miserable at home (and on the road for that matter). The Falcons are one of if not the best teams in the entire NFL. This matchup is deserving of a double digit spread. The Panthers have lost by more than the given spread NINE TIMES. They are facing arguably the best team they have faced all season long. Like I said, there is no such thing as a sure thing, but if there were, this would be it.

Free NFL Pick: Atlanta -8


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