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Oskeim’s Free Pick Winner for Sunday, October 31: Panthers at Falcons

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The Falcons are 3-3 despite playing the second-easiest schedule in the NFL.  Since Week 4, Matt Ryan is the NFL’s highest-graded quarterback but those results came against three of the eight worst defenses in the league based on EPA per play against.  Ryan has thrown for 1,204 yards over his last four games but Carolina’s defense has limited Davis Mills, Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts, and Daniel Jones to an average of just 189 passing yards per game.

The Falcons now face a very good Carolina defense that ranks 11th in DVOA, including 9th in pass DVOA.  Carolina’s defense is even better now with newly acquired Stephon Gilmore, who is eligible to play for the first time. The Pro Bowl cornerback has been practicing and conceded only 0.96 yards per cover snap last year for the Patriots. Carolina starting linebacker Shaq Thompson has been sidelined since Week Four with a foot injury but practiced this week and was the 12th-highest grade among 86 qualified linebackers, per Pro Football Focus.

Atlanta rookie tight end Kyle Pitts has been playing extremely well, converting 19 targets into 282 receiving yards over the past two games. However, the dynamic rookie will be neutralized by Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn, who has allowed five catches on ten tight end targets into his coverage for 53 yards this season (37th among 84 qualified safeties in coverage grade, per Pro Football Focus).

Carolina has failed to cover the spread in four straight games after starting 3-0 ATS. The Panthers are 3-0 ATS  when Christian McCaffrey plays and 0-4 ATS when he is sidelined.  The Panthers are averaging just 20.9 points per game this season and are an entirely different offense without McCaffrey in the backfield.

Carolina arrives off a humiliating 25-3 loss to the hapless Giants, which is significant in terms of the total in that teams off an upset road loss by 21 or points are 11-1-1 UNDER in all contests prior to Game 13 since 2017. Since 2016, NFL teams that scored fewer than seven points on the road in their last game are 9-1 UNDER.

Since 2017, NFL road underdogs off three or more consecutive SU and ATS losses are 10-1 UNDER in games with a posted total of fewer than 49 points. NFL home favorites that have scored more than 27 points in each of their last three games are 9-1 UNDER with a total of less than 49 points.

The Panthers are 12-1-1 UNDER in their last fourteen divisional games as underdogs of five or fewer points. Take the UNDER as Oskeim’s Free Pick Winner for Sunday, October 31.