In yet another gross Thursday Night Football matchup, we find value on an offense and a receiver whose values in the market have truly bottomed out .
Atlanta Falcons (-2.5) at Carolina Panthers (O/U 41.5)
Inconsistency at Quarterback for Carolina
The quarterback position has been a mess for the Panthers this year. Week 1 starter Baker Mayfield struggled immensely to move the ball down the field and was benched in favor of former XFL star P.J. Walker during their Week 5 matchup with the 49ers. Walker has been inconsistent in his time under center, although he has been better than Mayfield in terms of EPA/Dropback.
Walker will look to improve on his subpar EPA/Dropback numbers and is in prime position to succeed tonight against Atlanta.
Great Matchup for Walker and Carolina’s Offense
There may not be a batter matchup for an offense than this Falcons defense and secondary. Atlanta ranks 29th in passing DVOA defensively and allows an incredible .16 EPA/Pass to their opponents. To make matters even worse, the Falcons starting cornerbacks A.J. Terrell and Casey Hayward will both miss tonight’s game with injuries. As a result, second-string corners Darren Hall, who has allowed a 73.3% catch rate and a 131.1 passer rating when targeted, and Cornell Armstrong, who has allowed a 66.7% catch rate and 108.4 passer rating when targeted, will be starting for Atlanta tonight. Additionally, the Falcons are downright awful at pressuring the quarterback. Per Pro Football Reference, the Falcons have hurried opposing QB’s on just 1% of their dropbacks, which is by far the worst in the NFL. P.J. Walker will have literally all day behind his offensive line to find D.J. Moore and other targets as the Falcons provide no pass rush or resistance in the secondary.
In these teams Week 8 contest, Walker and the Panthers lit up the Falcons defense, putting up a season-high 34 points and .09 EPA/Play which is well above their season EPA/Play average. Carolina found a considerable amount of success through the run game, averaging an impressive .155 EPA/Rush. Walker also played one of the best games of his career, throwing for 317 yards and producing a solid 8.81 Yards/Attempt.
Best Bet: Panthers Team Total o20 -104 (2 units)
This total gives the Falcons defense far too much respect. Over the last 3 weeks, Atlanta’s defense has allowed their opponents to exceed their average scoring output by an average of 7.2 points. League average scoring has been around 22 points so far this season and taking Carolina to go over 19.5 points captures key numbers like 21 and 24. Due to the unlikelihood of a team to score 18, or, 19 points, we are essentially betting on Carolina to clear 17 points tonight. We also push at the key number of 20, which decreases our chance to lose this bet significantly. Given Carolina’s proven ability to move the ball against this leaky defense, this is a great spot to back P.J. Walker and Co. to replicate some of the success they found in Week 8 and clear this low total.
Best Bet: D.J. Moore o55.5 receiving yards (1 unit)
The D.J. Moore experience has been a rollercoaster so far this season. Carolina’s star wideout failed to eclipse 60 yards in his first 6 games before producing back-to-back impressive weeks, including a Week 8 line of 6 receptions, 152 yards and a TD, which came against this Falcons defense. This increased production came with Walker at quarterback and the two have developed a solid connection. With Walker targeting him, Moore is 15th in yards per route run and 14th in receiving yards. Walker was also starting for Moore’s huge Week 8 performance. Moore came crashing back down to earth in the Panthers blowout loss to Cincinnati last week with a measly 2 catches for 24 yards, although he was targeted 6 times. His matchup is far easier tonight as he’ll run the majority of his routes against Hall and Armstrong. Walker will have all day to find his star wide receiver running free in this Falcons secondary. Look for Moore to be a focal point of the Panthers gameplan tonight and surpass 55.5 yards with ease.