NFC South teams rekindle their rivalry to start their NFL seasons. The NFL Week 1 odds favor the Atlanta Falcons by a field goal (-3) over the Carolina Panthers with a total of 43 points. These teams split last season’s meetings with the home team winning each game. Carolina also covered the spread on both occasions.
The division rivals each had seven wins in 2022. But they made plenty of improvements in the offseason. The Panthers hired Frank Reich, an offensive coach, then selected Bryce Young after trading for the first overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. Conversely, the Falcons selected highly touted running back Bijan Robinson with their first-round pick.
What’s Changed for the Panthers and Falcons in 2023?
Young will be in the spotlight as this year’s top quarterback prospect. At just 5-foot-10 and barely 200 pounds, there are concerns about his size. It’s why Carolina’s offensive linemen need to improve to protect him. The team returns four of their five starters from last year so there should be some chemistry.
And while Carolina did trade D.J. Moore, their top receiver, the team added plenty of veterans to help Young. Two-time Pro Bowler Adam Thielen comes over from Minnesota while star running back Miles Sanders was also added. The team also drafted Jonathan Mingo as a highly-skilled receiver and signed veteran tight end Hayden Hurst.
Carolina’s defense stays mostly the same. This unit was top 10 when it was healthy so the team hopes the injury bug does not derail it again.
As for the Falcons, the favorites on the NFL lines have Desmond Ridder entering his first full season as a starter. He went 2-2 as a starter last season and had an 86.4 passer rating. The Falcons used their first two picks to bolster their offense, taking Robinson in the first round and Matthew Bergeron at left guard in the second.
As for their defense, the Falcons added several key veterans like Calais Campbell, Jessie Bates, and David Onyemata. The team finished 23rd in scoring defense last year and if the veterans can improve this unit, Atlanta may take over the weak NFC South.
Panthers vs Falcons: Where Each Team Has The Edge
Carolina and Atlanta have faced each other 56 times with the latter having the edge: 35 wins. However, since 2020, these rivals have split their season series. The current NFL odds indicate how competitive they have been against each other.
Both teams are young and have inexperienced players leading the offense. Young is a rookie while Ridder has started four NFL games. The star rookie will go against a Falcons’ passing defense that ranked last in pressure rate in 2022 and had the second-fewest sacks. But that’s why the team added Campbell who has 99.0 career sacks.
The Panthers on defense will look to hand Ridder his first loss while playing at home. He went 2-0 in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season. Ridder needs to take care of the ball while the Falcons look to run the ball predominantly. Carolina allowed over 122 rushing yards a game (15th in the NFL) last season.
The scoring could also be low here as 14 of these teams’ last 20 games have gone under the total. Both teams may run the ball a lot to alleviate pressure from their young quarterbacks.
Fun facts about the Carolina Panthers
- Founded in 1993, the Panthers are the newest franchise in the NFC as of 2023
- Carolina last won the NFC South in 2015, which stands as the current longest drought of not winning their division among the four
- The Panthers have only faced a division rival once in the NFL Playoffs: the New Orleans Saints in 2018
Fun facts about the Atlanta Falcons
- The Falcons have not faced a division rival in the playoffs since 1991 against the Saints; they have yet to face Carolina or Tampa Bay
- Atlanta has never won a road game in Pittsburgh (0-7-1) or Baltimore (0-3)
- Valuated by Forbes at $4.0B as of the end of 2022, the Falcons are considered the most valuable NFC South team; they are 12th overall in the NFL