Thursday Night Football Betting: Can the Falcons Stay in the NFC South Race by Winning as Road Favorites?

Despite a losing record, the Falcons are tied atop the NFC South. Can they keep it rolling with a road win over Carolina?

This is a matchup of two struggling squads. It is not exactly how the season was expected to be going, but here we are.

Our nERD-based rankings seem to agree that this game could be in a bit of a struggle. The Atlanta Falcons are the higher of the two teams, clocking in 27th, while the Carolina Panthers are the second-worst squad, per our ranks.

Let's see if we can unlock some interesting betting angles.

Game Preview and Key Matchups

With two new quarterbacks leading these squads, it's been unfortunate -- for Panthers fans -- that Marcus Mariota, not Baker Mayfield, has been the better signal-caller.

In terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, Mariota has been far more effective, logging his way to a 0.12 Passing NEP per drop back mark this season. On the flip side of this, Mayfield ranks among the bottom of the league's quarterbacks with only a -0.07 Passing NEP per pass mark. He's seventh-worst among quarterbacks with 75 or more drop backs this season, and his six touchdowns to four interceptions leave much to be desired.

However, it's important to note that Mayfield will serve as the backup in tonight's contest. P.J. Walker will garner starting duties for the Panthers, and while sometimes a change at the position can be helpful, Walker hasn't fared much better. In 96 drop backs this season, Walker has actually been worse than Mayfield with a -0.12 Passing NEP per pass mark and only a 35.4% Passing Success Rate mark. Among quarterbacks with 50 or more drop backs, that's the worst rate in the league.

Both of these teams fare better running the ball.

D'Onta Foreman has assumed lead running back duties for Carolina after they dealt Christian McCaffrey. Foreman and Atlanta's Cordarrelle Patterson have been outstanding runners this year. In terms of Rushing NEP per carry, Foreman ranks 10th with Patterson clocking in 4th. Lurking in the shadows in the Atlanta backfield is rookie Tyler Allgeier. He's been solid in his own right, carrying the ball 94 times for 423 yards and a score. He's logged double-digit carries in each of the last six games, slowly usurping Patterson in the backfield. Expect to see both heavily featured tonight.

As we look at the teams in our nERD rankings, it may surprise some folks that the Falcons rank seventh in total offense while Carolina checks in with the league's third-worst offensive attack. Defensively, neither team has much to hang their hat on. Carolina checks in 19th. Atlanta has the second-worst defensive unit in the NFL.

Bets to Consider

Despite being the home team, the Panthers are actually on the underdog side of things, getting 2.5-points. Our model thinks they can pull the upset.

We see this game coming down to the absolute wire, projecting a slim 19.83 to 19.77 margin of victory. That's a toss-up. As a result, we think the Falcons covering the 2.5-point spread happens only 45.8% of the time. In turn, Carolina's spread is a one-star wager.

With these two putrid offenses, the over doesn't seem so great either. While it's set at a lowly 41.5 points, we see the under hitting 56.2% of the time.

Peeping our projections this week, we expect Cordarrelle Patterson to smash rushing props tonight. He's currently around 54.5 rushing yards (-110), and we are projecting the multi-faceted offensive star to go for nearly 81 yards, which would make this an easy winner.

If the Falcons are indeed involved in a positive game script conducive to running against a Panthers rushing defense that was just sledgehammered by Joe Mixon for 153 rushing yards and 4 scores, Patterson could be in line for a monster night.

From a betting trends perspective, money looks to be pouring in on Atlanta. 80% of the money and 81% of spread bets are backing the road Falcons.

Historic Betting Trends

-- When the bright lights get turned up, Atlanta has been great from an under betting perspective. The under has hit in their last 11 primetime games.

-- The Panthers have really stunk at home. In their last 11 home games, they are only 2-9 ATS.

-- Atlanta has dominated this series as of late as a road opponent. In the last four games in Carolina, they have won and covered the spread each time.