The Week 1 NFL lines have the Atlanta Falcons as a 3.5-point favorite over the Carolina Panthers, per the BetUS odds. This spread has fluctuated between 3.5 and 4 points as Atlanta gets set to host an NFC South foe to kick off the season. Vegas is expecting a low-scoring affair with the over-under set at 39.5 points in the latest NFL odds.
For the first season since Arthur Smith arrived in the ATL, the Falcons have real expectations heading into the season. Atlanta is viewed as a contender in the NFC South and the pressure is rising after what eventually became a slow rebuild following the team’s Super Bowl appearance in 2017.
After years of musical quarterbacks, the Panthers traded up to land the No. 1 pick in order to select former Alabama standout Bryce Young. The question now is how long it will take Carolina to compete with Young as the team’s QB1.
Here is a betting breakdown of this Panthers-Falcons matchup complete with my NFL pick against the spread.
Why To Back the Panthers at +3.5
If you are looking to back the Panthers, the reason likely starts with skepticism about Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder. Carolina also finally has their quarterback and the hope is that Young can help raise the level of play for the Panthers.
Bryce Young to Adam Thielen for the first touchdown of his career!
— JPAFootball (@jasrifootball) August 26, 2023
Over the offseason, Carolina attempted to surround Young with weapons by signing former Pro Bowl wideout Adam Thielen, receiver DJ Chark, running back Miles Sanders, and tight end Hayden Hurst. Both teams appear to have improved their offenses over the offseason.
Why To Back the Falcons at -3.5
It is in an interesting mix of vibes in Atlanta with rising expectations thanks to the team’s ever-expanding offensive weapons combined with skepticism about Ridder. Yet, the case for Ridder is simple.
— Kevin Knight (@FalcoholicKevin) July 28, 2023
The Falcons had the training wheels on during Ridder’s four starts to close out last season severely limiting the team’s upside. Atlanta added to the team’s already impressive group of playmakers by selecting Bijan Robinson inside the top 10.
1️⃣0️⃣ days until football!!
The Falcons used the 8th overall pick on Bijan Robinson this year and you should be prepared to do the same thing in your fantasy drafts!
— Daniel Dopp (@DanielDopp) August 28, 2023
If Ridder fails, it will not be for a lack of weapons, but something tells me the quarterback is going to exceed the low expectations that have been prevalent throughout the offseason.
Take Falcons To Cover -3.5 vs Panthers
While I laid out the paths you can take in this season opener, the smart money is on the Falcons to cover the 3.5 points at home. The matchup to watch is the Falcons defensive line against what projects to be a weak Panthers offensive line.
Carolina may have added weapons, but it is not going to matter if Young is running for his life. Atlanta added a pair of veteran pass rushers in free agency by signing Calais Campbell and Bud Dupree. This duo will make their presence felt against Young making for a not-so-friendly NFL debut.
Calais Campbell steadily climbing up the all-time sack list (42nd with 98 career sacks) and still getting it done at 36-years old. Two HQ sacks using the cross-chop technique here. Second one is filthy. pic.twitter.com/0f5k6EMqGh
— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 23, 2022
The Panthers are also going to find it challenging to slow down the Falcons offense. With the potential for Robinson, Kyle Pitts, Drake London and Cordarrelle Patterson to all share the field in different formations, Carolina is facing an uphill battle to keep Atlanta out of the end zone.
I’m backing the city of Waffle House, Lil’ Baby, Outkast, Migos, 2 Chainz, Future and Ludacris over the city of banks.
Who wit us? pic.twitter.com/DxDJMeZHR4
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) September 6, 2023
Big bank takes little bank as the Falcons cover the spread on the way to victory.