NFL’s Thursday Night Running Backs in Betting Spotlight

Posted on: October 29, 2020, 08:11h. 

Last updated on: October 31, 2020, 07:07h.

For gamblers and ordinary fans alike, Thursday night’s NFL game between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers will be a tale of two running backs.

Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley runs against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 11. The teams will meet again on Thursday night in Carolina. (Image: Dale Zanine/USA TODAY Sports)

For Atlanta (1-6), it’s running back Todd Gurley, whose unwanted touchdown late in last week’s game against Detroit resulted in a major swing at sportsbooks. For Carolina (3-4), it’s the almost-return of injured running back Christian McCaffrey.

It’s a standalone Thursday night game, so we’ll run a ton of business,” William Hill director of trading Nick Bogdanovich told “We could have a JV Nebraska football game on Thursday and, as long as it was on TV and it was by itself, we’re going to write a ton of business.”

The Panthers, who won at Atlanta 23-16 just 18 days ago, are 2- to 2.5-point favorites.

Falling Falcons

If NFL games lasted only 30 minutes, Atlanta would be a powerhouse. The Falcons have outscored opponents 101-84 in the first half of games, but have been outscored 123-83 in the second half.

Atlanta, they just implode every week. I’ve never seen a team since the 28-3 Super Bowl debacle blow so many big leads,” Bogdanovich said, referencing the Falcons’ 34-28 loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI. “They play some good football, and, at the end, you know somehow they’re going to lose. It’s crazy. At some point, they’ve got to be so demoralized.”

That fall-from-ahead trend continued in Sunday’s 23-22 loss at home to Detroit.

The Lions led 16-14, but the Falcons had driven to Detroit’s 10-yard line in the final moments. With time running out and the Lions not having any timeouts to stop the seconds from ticking away, all the Falcons had to do was drain the clock and kick a field goal on the final play.

Instead, Gurley ran practically unchecked up the middle. He belatedly tried to stop himself short of the goal line but failed. The touchdown put the Falcons ahead 22-16 but left the Lions 1:04 to drive to the winning touchdown.

The Falcons were 1.5-point favorites.

“It was a two-way action game so it really didn’t matter one way or another for us,” Bogdanovich said. “I know it mattered to a lot of people, depending on which side of the bad beat you were on.”

With only one win and an early coaching change, the Falcons might not get near their preseason over/under of 7.5 wins.

McCaffrey Not Expected to Play

The “million-dollar question,” in the words of Bogdanovich, was the fate of McCaffrey. Arguably the NFL’s best all-purpose running back and a preseason favorite for Offensive Player of the Year, McCaffrey has been sidelined since Week 2 by an ankle injury. He returned to practice this week, but is not expected to play.

At one point, he was worth a couple full points” on the line, Bogdanovich told “Now he’s not worth as much because, one, his backup [Mike Davis] has performed good and, two, he’s probably not at 100 percent.”

In fact, an NFL Network report of McCaffrey’s expected absence on Thursday morning didn’t change lines at all. Davis had a big game against the Falcons on Oct. 11 with 89 rushing yards and nine receptions for 60 yards.

Week 8 Schedule

Here is this week’s schedule, with betting lines from William Hill as of Thursday morning. All times are Eastern.

Thursday’s game

  • Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers (-2), 8:20 p.m. (FOX/NFLN/Amazon)

Sunday’s games

  • Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens (-4), 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
  • New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (-3.5), 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
  • Tennessee Titans at Cincinnati Bengals (+5.5), 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
  • Las Vegas Raiders at Cleveland Browns (-2.5), 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
  • Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions (+2.5), 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
  • Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers (-7), 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
  • New York Jets at Kansas City Chiefs (-19.5), 1:00 p.m. (CBS)
  • Los Angeles Rams at Miami Dolphins (+3.5), 1:00 p.m. (FOX)
  • Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (+3), 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
  • New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears (+4.5), 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
  • San Francisco 49ers at Seattle Seahawks (-3), 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
  • Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (-9), 8:20 p.m. (NBC)

Monday’s game

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New York Giants (+10.5), 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)