Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:30 AM EST
1:00 PM EST. The Panthers were originally the betting favorites in this game with an injured Cam Newton, but when word surfaced on Wednesday that "Superman" would be shutting it down for the rest of the season, this line jumped 5½ points and the Cats are now home pooches with Taylor Heinicke at the helm. While he might sound like a discount Dutch lager, Heinicke is actually Old Dominion's record holder for passing yards and touchdowns. Despite setting records at his school, Heinicke went undrafted in 2015, but caught on with the Vikings for a couple of years before moving on to the Patriots practice squad and then to the Texans last season. Injuries have been his biggest hurdle in the pros, as he was released by the Vikes with an injury settlement and then he only managed to get in nine plays for the Texans before ending his 2017 season with a concussion. Heinicke has fared somewhat better here in 2018, in that he's been able to stay upright, as he's made five appearances, completing two-of-four passes for 46 yards. If we're looking for a major overreaction, this one would be it.
Atlanta smashed the Cardinals at home last week, but big deal, as Arizona is one of the worst teams in football. It's also one thing to show up at home for your season ticket holders and sponsors in the final game of the season and quite another to travel on a busy holiday weekend to play a meaningless game even if it is just 250 miles up the interstate. The Falcons need this trip to Charlotte like they need a hole in their idiot heads. Do you think that Dan Quinn really wants to look at old tape of Heincke from his college days? Quinn admitted before the Newton news was official that he was preparing as if Cam was going to play. Don't forget that prior to that drubbing of the Red Birds, the Falcons failed to post more than 20 points during a five-game losing streak of their own and Atlanta's home/road splits this season are something to consider. The Falcons quit against the Packers in Lambeau, lost 31-17 to the Saints on Thanksgiving night, dropped a double-digit decision in Cleveland in their last three roadies and on the season, they've won just one game outside the Peach state and that was against the Redskins in Week 9. If Atlanta shows up here, then so be it, but the Panthers and "Riverboat Ron" are likely to play this final home game for keeps and Carolina's great defense figures to step up, knowing they'll be counted on here. Atlanta a road favorite is incorrect.
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CAROLINA +136 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.72)