Can 2016’s Super Bowl Loser Keep Atlanta out of Playoffs?
It’s been 18 years since the Atlanta Falcons have competed in the Super Bowl. In recent years, Atlanta has come close to earning another ticket to the big show, but has come up short against the Eagles in ’04 and against the 49ers in 2012. At 9-5, it’s clear that the Falcons have made it to the postseason with a better record. But, considering how explosive this offense has been this season, it’s safe to say that this could be the most dangerous Atlanta team sportsbooks have seen in over a decade.
With 15 weeks under wrap, Matt Ryan leads the league in passer rating, yards per pass completion (a surprising 9.3) and touchdown-to-interception differential (+25). Behind Ryan’s impressive efforts – which have placed him at the forefront of the MVP discussion – the Falcons have been able to advance to a winning record despite having a defense with more holes in it than Swiss cheese. There’s no doubt about it, Ryan’s ninth season is inarguably his best. Unfortunately for Ryan, the job is not done and in Week 16 the MVP candidate will once again have to put his best foot forward to lead the Falcons to a decisive win over a divisional opponent. It’s either that, or risk playoff elimination. But with Ryan having such a standout season, the online NFL betting odds are likely to favor the Falcons over the Carolina Panthers in Week 16.
NFL Odds – Week 16 – Saturday, December 24th
Atlanta Falcons -2½ (-110) 52 (-110) -140
Carolina Panthers +2½ (-110) 52 (-110) +120
Surprisingly enough, the sportsbooks aren’t favoring the Falcons all that much. Yea they’re coming in as the favorite, but against the 6-8 Panthers, one would expect Atlanta to come in as the heavy favorite. Then again, this is more or less the same team that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last season. Also, the Panthers are coming in on a 2-game winning streak, one of which was a crushing upset against the Washington Redskins. With that win Carolina essentially eliminated Washington from playoff contention; will they be able to do the same to the Falcons?
At first glance it would appear that the Falcons should have an easy time withstanding the Panthers. After all, Atlanta is the proud owner of the league’s 3rd best passing offense, while the Panthers have the worst pass defense in the league. However, it was that same 32nd ranking secondary that was able to halt the Redskins – who have the 2nd best passing game in the league. Since the Panthers had no qualms about usurping an offense that ranked higher than the Falcons, why should they have any problems this Sunday?
Unfortunately that type of logic doesn’t always work in professional sports. There are just too many variables; weather, the mentality of the team on that day, and even luck. Either way, the Panthers certainly aren’t in contention for the Super Bowl but at the very least they can spoil Atlanta’s season. Sportsbook fans know there’s nothing losing teams look forward to more than the ability to keep a division rival out of the postseason.