2023 NFL Week 1 Betting Preview: Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons

Desmond Ridder Atlanta Falcons

Panthers (0-0) at Falcons (0-0)

Spread: Falcons -3.5

Total: 39.5

Weather: Dome

The Line Report

This line opened in May between Atlanta Falcons -2 to -2.5 at some sportsbooks but only stayed below Falcons -3 for a day. It was driven to Falcons -3.5 in late August, where it currently sits at most locations.

The total opened between 43.5 and 44 points, gradually decreasing to its current mark of 39.5.

Falcons Offense vs. Panthers Defense

Atlanta has a top-10 caliber offensive line and three blue chip skill position players still on rookie deals. Desmond Ridder is a big question mark at quarterback, but he has an excellent supporting cast on offense.

Carolina Panthers stud edge rusher Brian Burns returned to practice after staying away during a contract dispute. With Burns back, the Falcons’ offensive line now has a minor trench advantage.

Atlanta was one of the more run-centric offenses last season, and then it selected Bijan Robinson with the eighth overall pick. We can reasonably expect Robinson to lead the Falcons backfield, but Tyler Allgeier ran for 1,035 yards last year. 

It would not be a shock if these two young runners split carries to open the season. That uncertainty is something we should avoid in opening-day prop markets.

The Falcons’ passing game will lack significant volume most weeks, but it should run through WR Drake London and TE Kyle Pitts. That’s more of a certainty for London, who was technically fifth in the league in target share (29.1 percent) last season. 

London accomplished that feat despite finishing 27th in total targets while only reaching eight or more in six games. Four of those games came in Ridder’s four late-season starts. 

Carolina surrendered the fourth-most receiving yards to wide receivers last season and the most fantasy points per game to perimeter receivers. London played more than 80 percent of his snaps on the outside last season.

Pitts is a freak athlete, but he’s a far more volatile piece of the Falcons’ passing attack. Pitts should ideally be monitored instead of bet on.

Panthers Offense vs. Falcons Defense

First-overall pick Bryce Young will make his professional debut on opening day. Young is supported by a middle-of-the-pack offensive line with upside and one of the league’s weaker skill groups.

The Falcons infused significant talent into their defense this offseason, most notably transforming their front while adding premium safety Jessie Bates III. The Falcons aren’t an elite defense, but they have the tools to limit Carolina’s below-average pass catchers.

Atlanta gave up the eighth-most rushing yards to opposing running backs last season. The Falcons’ personnel is significantly different this year, but that’s still a mild positive for Carolina. It would make sense if the Panthers leaned on newly acquired RB Miles Sanders as Young gets accustomed to life in the NFL.

Carolina has one of the weaker wide receiver groups in football. However, our wide receiver guru, Jordan Vanek, sees veteran Adam Thielen as a strong scheme fit for coach Frank Reich. Carolina paid both Sanders and Thielen significant money this offseason. 

Chances are the Panthers made those decisions for a reason. Similarly, TE Hayden Hurst also was paid handsomely this offseason. The Falcons have a revamped secondary, but they gave up the eighth-most yards per game to tight ends in 2022.

What You’re Betting On

Atlanta has a better roster than the Panthers, plain and simple. The success or failure of the Falcons primarily rides on Ridder. Atlanta can be a winning team this season if he can play efficient, relatively turnover-free football. Therefore, a bet on the Falcons is a bet on their offense playing a clean game while betting against Young in his NFL debut.

If you’re betting on the Panthers, you are betting on Reich in his Panthers debut with a rookie quarterback making his first start. You’re doing that against a more talented Falcons roster on the road. You’re also making that wager as a direct bet against Ridder.

Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Panthers 17

Ryan’s Recent Betting Record

ATS 2021: 49-31

ATS 2022: 48-32

Props 2022: 60-40

Ryan is the associate director of fantasy and betting at The 33rd Team. Ryan has been covering NFL betting markets for five years. Follow Ryan @RyanReynoldsNFL on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.  

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