Ryan needs a strong outing

Falcons To Book Playoff Place With Panthers Win

The Atlanta Falcons need to defeat the Carolina Panthers in their regular season finale to be guaranteed of a place in the NFL playoffs.

The Falcons currently sit in the sixth seed, but can be ousted by the Seattle Seahawks should they lose to the Panthers and Pete Carroll’s men triumph over the Arizona Cardinals.

Carolina have already booked their place in the post-season. However, the club can secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs with a victory should the Minnesota Vikings slip up.

Therefore there’s plenty of incentive for Ron Rivera’s men to defeat their NFC South rivals. The Panthers already bested the Falcons on home soil, defeating them by a three-point margin.

Rivera’s side have come up on the outside track to become legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl. Their offense has been good enough, although it needed heroics from Cam Newton to beat see off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last time out.

Carolina’s defense is an elite unit and will be intent on shutting down Matt Ryan and company on the road. Ryan has not been at his best this term, failing to build on his MVP-winning campaign of the 2016 term.

The 32-year-old’s season was summed up by his bizarre interception against the New Orleans Saints last time out. The ball struck Marshon Lattimore on the backside and the ball remained locked there before it was picked up by a Saints’ defender.

Dan Quinn will be hopeful that his side have better fortune on their side at home against the Panthers. Their campaign has been inconsistent to say the least, but they could be a problematic opponent in the playoffs should they get over the line. We’ll now break down the contest using the latest betting odds.

Atlanta Falcons

Ryan needs a strong outing

The Falcons could have secured their place in the post-season last week, only to fall to a defeat to the Saints. Atlanta had reeled off back-to-back wins against the Saints and the Buccaneers to move back in position. However, New Orleans managed to put enough points on the board to deliver the victory at the Super Dome, while Cameron Jordan tormented Ryan with two sacks.

The Falcons’ offense was the most electric in the NFL last season under the tenure of Kyle Shanahan. Since Steve Sarkisian took the reins in the off-season, Atlanta have struggled for rhythm. Ryan has been off his game throughout the campaign and he put forward another underwhelming outing against the Saints. Although the interception was not his fault, the 32-year-old still only completed 61% of his passes in the contest.

Ryan has not surpassed a 90 quarterback rating in his last five matches, which will be a huge concern for the club heading into the showdown. His performances last season were the driving force of the Falcons’ success. If he can find that form once again then Atlanta will be dangerous, but if he remains lacklustre count Quinn’s men out of contention.

Defensively Atlanta are ranked inside the top 10 in fewest yards allowed and have been relatively solid over the course of the campaign. They’ve allowed 20.3 points per game, putting them once again in the top 10.

Outside of one match against the Dallas Cowboys, pressure has been an issue for the defensive line. Unless they are able to contain Newton on Sunday the Falcons could put their playoff place in jeopardy. Quinn has a job on his hands to get his side’s best against the Panthers as the team have been far from consistent this term.

Carolina Panthers

Rivera will demand a strong ending

Credit: USA TODAY Sports

The Panthers almost let their hard work against the Minnesota Vikings, the Falcons and the Green Bay Packers fall to nothing against the Buccaneers. Newton and company were struggling for rhythm in the contest, while Jameis Winston played one of his best games of the season. However, Newton rose to the occasion to deliver a crucial drive downfield before running in for a late touchdown. Winston could have fired back, but fumbled following a sack by Kawann Short to end the contest.

As a result of their win, Carolina have put themselves in a position to compete for the number two seed. Their impressive victory over the Vikings at the beginning of the month has handed them the tie-breaker over Minnesota. Mike Zimmer’s side still have to lose their final match of the season for the Panthers to snatch the two seed. Given the Vikings are playing the Chicago Bears – it looks unlikely, but Rivera’s men have shown that they are capable of knocking off the NFC Conference’s best teams.

Newton has had a below-par campaign for the Panthers. The 28-year-old statistics have been poor, although his receiving corps has been depleted. However, he has still made plays when it has mattered the most, which makes him a dangerous prospect for the Falcons and Carolina’s future opponents.

Newton is capable of finding his 2015 MVP form and with the quality his side have on defense with Short, Mario Addison and Julius Peppers being a force on the defensive line. The linebacking corps is one of the best units in the NFL, while the secondary is much improved from last season there could be enough for a Super Bowl charge.

Betting Options

The Falcons have to put on a performance to secure their place in the post-season. Quinn’s men have struggled with inconsistency this term. Therefore it’s difficult to predict which Atlanta team will turn at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. Ryan has been off colour for the last five matches and he will need a strong outing to put points on the board against a stoic unit. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman will be vital along with Julio Jones in the passing game. The Panthers will be desperate to knock off one of their biggest rivals and end their hopes of reaching the playoffs.

Due to the urgency for Atlanta back them at -189   with Betway to secure the win. The Falcons have played a lot of close games recently – therefore back the Panthers on the spread at +2.5 with 888Sport at +138 . It’s time for Ryan and company to perform to secure their path to the playoffs. Back the Falcons to score over 24 points at -105   with Betway, while take Coleman to find the endzone anytime at +200   with 888Sport.

Tips Summary

Atlanta Falcons To Beat Carolina Panthers
Sunday 31st December 2017 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -189

Carolina Panthers +2.5 Spread
Sunday 31st December 2017 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: +138

Atlanta Falcons To Score Over 24 Points
Sunday 31st December 2017 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: -105

Tevin Coleman To Score Touchdown Anytime
Sunday 31st December 2017 16:25 ET (21:25 GMT)
Odds: +200

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