Atlanta Falcons (5-7, 5-7 ATS) at Carolina Panthers (5-7, 5-7), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Falcons Stats and Trends
These teams have played under the total in three straight meetings in this series over the last two seasons.
Atlanta is 4-1 ATS in its last five road games.
The Falcons have played under the total in four straight games.
Cordarrelle Patterson has seen a 48% snap share in consecutive games but he reached double-digit carries in both contests. He finished with 13/78 rushing and 3/18 receiving on five targets in a tough matchup against the Buccaneers, which gives him 12+ FP in nine straight full contests. Patterson posted 9/35 rushing and 5/37/1 receiving in this matchup in Week 8.
Matt Ryan has scored 13+ FP and he’s reached 2+ TD passes just once in his last six games. He completed 30/41 passes for 297 yards (7.2 YPA) without a touchdown in a loss to the Buccaneers in Week 13. He completed 20/27 passes for just 146 yards (5.4 YPA), one TD, and two INTs when these teams met in Week 8.
Russell Gage paced this passing attack for a third straight game in Week 13, posting season-bests in targets (12), catches (11), receiving yards (130), and FP (23.0). Gage has a rock-bottom floor with two goose eggs since their Week 6 bye, but he’s been a viable PPR option in his other five games in that span with a combined 33/372/2 receiving for 16.2 FPG in those contests. The Panthers kept Gage off the stat sheet in Week 8 despite his 68% snap share.
Kyle Pitts has reached double-digit FP just once since he posted 16/282 receiving in a two-game stretch in Week 5-7. He at least showed some signs of life with 4/48 receiving on seven targets against the Buccaneers in Week 13. Pitts finished with 2/13 receiving on six targets in this matchup at the end of October.
Brolley’s Panthers Stats and Trends
The Panthers beat the Falcons 19-13 as 2.5-point road favorites in late October in a game totaled at 46.5 points.
Carolina’s playoff hopes are quickly fading away with 2-7 outright and ATS records in its last nine games.
Carolina has failed to cover in four straight home games.
The Panthers are 5-2 toward unders in their last seven home games.
The Panthers fired OC Joe Brady over their bye week for not committing enough to the run
Cam Newton sucked everyone in with his 26.2 FP performance in his first start of 2021 before he pulled the rug out on everyone who started him in Week 12. He completed a truly horrific 5/21 passes (23.8%) for 92 yards (4.4 YPA) and two INTs before HC Matt Rhule mercifully pulled the plug on him with a quarter to play. His one-yard TD plunge kept him from being a complete fantasy abomination, and his 15 rushing TDs since the start of 2020 are the only thing keeping him afloat for our game. He’s now averaging just 172.8 passing yards per game and 7.0 YPA with just 10 passing TDs in 17 starts over the last two seasons — he’s scored 20+ FP just four times in his last 15 starts. The Falcons are giving up the second-most FPG (21.4) to QBs this season.
D.J. Moore has scored 30.3 FP with 9/153/1 receiving in his first two games with Cam, and he’s back to being the top weapon in this offense with Christian McCaffrey (ankle, IR) done for the season.. He had scored fewer than 10 FP in three straight games before Cam came back into the picture. Moore finished with 4/59 receiving on eight targets while playing with Sam Darnold in this matchup earlier this season.
Rookie Chubba Hubbard is back in as the lead runner and Ameer Abdullah is going to play in passing situations. Hubbard has proven this year that he’s a merely average player, but he managed a solid but unspectacular 12.8 FPG in Weeks 3-8 with CMC out of the lineup. Brady got canned over their bye week because he reportedly wasn’t running the ball enough, so Hubbard and Abdullah could see a little more work with Brady out of the picture. Hubbard managed 24/82/1 rushing and Abdullah added 11/66 scrimmage in this matchup earlier this season.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.6 (20th)
Plays per game: 57.6 (31st)
Pass: 63.2% (13th) | Run: 36.8% (20th)
Pace: 27.4 (12th)
Plays per game: 61.7 (20th)
Pass: 59.0% (24th) | Run: 41.0% (9th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Falcons play volume has plummeted over the last two months because their offense can’t consistently sustain drives as only Seattle has run fewer plays per game than Atlanta over the last eight weeks. The Falcons are averaging just 15.9 points per game and their games have hit the under 5 times in 7 contests in this stretch. And, when these two teams met back in Week 8, the Falcons managed just 19 points.
Carolina has got to be the least patient team in the league. HC Matt Rhule was so furious after their Week 12 loss to Miami that he ended up firing OC Joe Brady in the lead up to Week 14 and made it clear that the two had philosophical differences offensively. Rhule, once again, reiterated that he wants to run the ball way more – but the thing is… they were already very run-heavy. Over the last eight weeks, the Panthers have run the ball 49% of the time when the game is within a score, which is the fourth-highest rate. With Cam Newton under center, I’m expecting the Panthers to come out and get Cam and the ground game rolling here.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Russell Gage has pieced together a solid two-game stretch of production, but against Zone-heavy rotations of Jacksonville and Tampa Bay. Gage has never been a reliable Cover 1 option. Making matters worse, his preferred alignment now that he’s doing work on the outside is that he’ll see considerable snaps across from Stephon Gilmore.
The race to absorb the available touches vacated by Christian McCaffrey begins now. Chuba Hubbard would seem to be the obvious choice, but the removal of Joe Brady as OC adds a considerable wrinkle. I will think Hubbard will emerge with the lead role, but the recent involvement of Ameer Abdullah does prevent me from taking that much interest. If Cam Newton were to be supplanted by P.J. Walker, the RB1 for Carolina would draw far more intrigue. As it stands, we all know Cam is going to garner nearly all of the goal-to-go carries.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The biggest news from this matchup is the Panthers’ shock firing of wunderkind offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who was considered a coup hire for head coach Matt Rhule last year. But Brady and Rhule were not philosophically aligned… because Rhule wanted to run the ball more. Rhule promoted lackey Jeff Nixon, who coached running backs at Baylor with him, to offensive coordinator.
Brady never committed to the run the way coach Mart Rhule wanted. So the biggest surprise might be the timing. https://t.co/KK2RMfIXKF— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) December 5, 2021
Now, look. Rhule might well have a point given he just saw Cam Newton go 5/21 before being benched in Week 12. And the Panthers’ awful QB play has affected one of the game’s best wide receivers — DJ Moore.
Most incomplete targets that were deemed to be the quarterback's fault (PFF):— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 8, 2021
1. D.J. Moore (21)
But the Panthers also have an awful offensive line — it’s mediocre in run blocking and awful in pass pro per FootballOutsiders — and I don’t think their current lead back, Chuba Hubbard, is much more than “just a guy.” So look forward to 20 carries for 75 yards for Hubbard, and hope he falls forward into the end zone if you’re playing him. That’s similar to the numbers he posted in this matchup earlier this season.
Given the new offensive approach, Graham thinks we can actually start Cam with some level of confidence. From Start/Sit:
“I know, I know. Cam was awful his last time out against the Dolphins as the Panthers offense collapsed. HC Matt Rhule was so furious after the game that he ended up firing OC Joe Brady in the lead up to Week 14 and made it clear that the two had philosophical differences offensively. Rhule, once again, reiterated that he wants to run the ball way more – and I absolutely think that Cam is going to be a huge part of that. Cam ran it 10 times for 46 yards and a score back in his first start of the year in Week 11, but the Panthers got away from that the following week as Cam ran for just 5 yards. Well, this is an ideal get right spot for Cam and the Panthers run game as a whole against this Falcons defense that has struggled against mobile QBs all year. Jalen Hurts (7/62), Daniel Jones (8/39), Taylor Heinicke (5/43), Sam Darnold (8/66), and Trevor Lawrence (5/39) have all had solid days on the ground against Atlanta. Cam is obviously not without risk, but he simultaneously carries the highest ceiling among streamers on this slate. And in must-win weeks like this, you’re shooting for the most upside possible.”
And the matchup is good for Moore as well, says Graham:
“Moore’s 2021 should have been incredible after his hot start, but he’s obviously been bogged down by brutal QB play as of late. After putting up 6.7 receptions and 85.5 yards per game in his first six outings, Moore has since tallied 4.3 receptions and 56.8 yards per game over his last six. The good news? Moore has clearly been Cam Newton’s favorite target. In his two starts, Cam has targeted Moore 29% of the time and there is obviously room for that to grow even more with CMC out. This matchup is ideal, too, as the Falcons are giving up a whopping 42.5 FPG to opposing wideouts over the last five weeks (second-most). I’m going back to Moore as a WR2 in this spot.”
The Falcons’ offense has been broken this year, and I think it’s obscuring the fact that Matt Ryan has played pretty well overall. The fact of the matter is the Falcons aren’t getting what they need out of rookie TE Kyle Pitts, for one reason or another. I think the lack of decent passing game options is really the big problem. Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack:
With Calvin Ridley out since Week 8, the Falcons are third-from-last in drives ending in a score (FG or TD) at 22.2%. Only the Texans (21.3%) and Jaguars (21%) are worse in this span.
Kyle Pitts is averaging 3 receptions and 39.7 yards per game and has 0 TDs since Week 8.
There sure seems to be a correlation here. Fortunately, Ryan has started to gravitate toward WR Russell Gage more, as Gage caught 11 passes last week, but one of Gage’s absolute floor games — 0 targets — came in this matchup in Week 8. I am still sucking it up and starting him as a WR3, but understanding the risks involved.
Meanwhile, those rostering Cordarrelle Patterson are glad to see him back and averaging 6.4 YPC since returning from his injured ankle. What they are not happy to see is Mike Davis back from the dead, vulturing a TD last week and actually running 29 routes to Patterson’s 19 against the Bucs last week. Patterson remains an RB1 with Davis a prayer FLEX.