Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons – Week 17 NFL Football Picks December 28, 2014

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The winner takes it all. It’s going to take the entire 17 weeks of the 2014 NFL regular season to crown the NFC South champions. The Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons meet in an all-important clash with a playoff appearance on the line.

Week 17 NFL Football PicksCan the Panthers ride the momentum of these three-game win streak? Read on as we breakdown what’s essentially the NFC South Championship game.

This has been a rocky season, nevertheless the 6-8-1 Carolina Panthers are poised to repeat as NFC South champions. The Panthers took sole possession of first devote NFC South after their 17-13 win (their third straight) on the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Cam Newton threw for starters touchdown and ran for another from the Browns. Meanwhile, running back Jonathan Stewart had 122 yards on 24 carries. Newton and Stewart make for a devastating running attack, which racked up 209 yards Sunday. Having the Panthers’running game rolling will be important taking into consideration the Falcons have allowed the absolute most rushing touchdowns in the league (20) this season.

To thoroughly take advantage of the Falcons’porous defense—Atlanta has allowed 404.4 total yards per game, dead-last in the league—the Panthers also have to open on their passing game. Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin had a huge game in a 19-17 loss to the Falcons in Week 11, catching nine passes for 109 yards and a score.

Benjamin should have the ability to provide Newton together with his smartest choice in the passing game. Newton threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in Week 11, but was also picked off two times.

Tighter defense in addition has helped the Panthers within their three-game win streak. They’ve allowed an average of 275 yards per game, way below their season average of 343.3. The Panthers’ defense has been able to force turnovers with linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bene Benwikere all having interceptions in the three-game run.

Kuechly, Norman and Benwikere should have the ability to supply the threat of the interception especially after Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw four picks in the past five games.

Big games from Matt Ryan and Julio Jones led the Falcons to a 30-14 rout of New Orleans on Sunday. Ryan passed for 322 yards and a touchdown on Sunday. He avoided throwing an interception for the first time in a five-week stretch and avoided being sacked. Ryan connected with Jones on seven passes for 107 yards.

Jones has 555 yards and two touchdowns in the past three weeks, but had one of his most unproductive games (five catches for 59 yards) against Carolina in Week 11. Ryan also had his lowest output in the last six weeks against Carolina, passing for 268 yards with a touchdown. However, Ryan has now passed for over 300 yards in four straight games.

Atlanta’s defense entered Week 16 as statistically the worst in the league, but they didn’t play the part with their season on the line Sunday. The Falcons recorded a season-high five sacks. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora closed the game having an 86-yard score on a fumble recovery following a strip-sack on Drew Brees.

The secondary also had a huge game. Cornerback Robert McClain, thought to be the weak link in the secondary, came up with an essential interception in the fourth quarter which led to a subject goal. Meanwhile, strong safety Kemal Ishmael forced a fumble and recovered at the start of the fourth quarter.

The same defensive showing from Atlanta could ask them to running away with the NFC South title and a playoff spot. Carolina has averaged 1.5 giveaways per game this season.

The Falcons are undefeated against NFC South this season. The Panthers repeat as NFC South champs. Take Carolina to win Week 17 NFL Football Picks and cover on the road.

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