Chase Irle: Coming off Atlanta’s smackdown of the Saints on Monday Night Football, the Falcons head into a crucial early season matchup with the Carolina Panthers. The offense has looked spectacular the last two weeks, but that was a against the Raiders and the Saints. We will get a much better feel to how good they really are this week against Carolina.
The Panthers came into the season with high expectations, but have stumbled out of the gate against the Broncos and the Vikings. Both of those teams feature elite pass-rushes and have attacked the Panthers biggest weakness, the offensive line. Atlanta, even with the world’s worst pass rush last season, did have success in getting after Newton in their home victory a year ago. Its going to be a battle of weaknesses that decide this matchup. If Newton has too much time, he is going to shred the defense, but if Beasley and company and hurry him up a little, Newton will make some mistakes.
The Falcons will not put up 45 Sunday, but they will not get shut down. This Panthers defense has not been as dominant so far, and Matt Ryan at home is a safe bet for 20+ points. Atlanta got it done last time at home with a worse team, I think they will do it again in a similar type of game.
Falcons 27 Panthers 20
Shailin Singh: This game may just end up being the most important one all year for the Falcons. With the chance to move to 3-1 and have the defending NFC South champion Panthers move to 1-3 should be enough to justify that. As everyone remembers, the Falcons handed Carolina their only loss of 2015 right there in the very building that Sunday’s game will be held in. However, this year, both teams look quite different than when they met up in Week 16.
Stopping Kelvin Benjamin could be the deciding factor in whether or not we can pull this game out. If Desmond Trufant is allowed to shadow him, I don’t think Benjamin will have a monstrous game like he has the potential for. There is not much to worry about in Carolina’s backfield with Stewart out, but Cam Newton is a force to be reckoned with when he has his hands on the rock. The Falcons must be sound with their tackling to keep Newton contained, and hopefully there will be a bit of a pass rush to go along with it. The biggest issue when facing the Panthers will most likely be Greg Olsen. Coby Fleener had a huge game against us on MNF, and with LB Devondre Campbell out again, it will probably be up to Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, and/or Sean Weatherspoon to try and slow him down.
Offensively, even though the Panthers have a stellar defense, I think Atlanta has the advantage in this one. Expect the Falcons to pass a lot more than last week, as the Panthers have one of the league’s best front sevens and Luke Kuechly is a master in the middle of the field. If we can attack their weakened secondary with Julio Jones and the rest of the crew, this game could easily be another shootout. The offensive line could have its hands full against a stout D-Line, but they should be able to hold their ground. I am going to bank on our offense in this one, with the Falcons pulling another out another close win in the Dome against Carolina.
Prediction: 30-27 Falcons