Expect weather to play a factor in TNF contest between Falcons and Panthers

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The Falcons square off with the Panthers today on Thursday Night Football, and Tropical Storm Nicole, which has made landfall in Florida, will play a factor in the contest. Per Accuweather, a wind advisory set for Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte begins at 7 pm ET, just before kickoff. The weather report suggests winds blowing 16 mph with gusts as high as 27 mph. The chance of rain is currently sitting around 70%, so this could be a very ugly matchup.

Thankfully, this plays right into the Falcons’ formula for winning. Atlanta’s biggest weaknesses are passing the ball, defending the pass, and rushing the passer. In comparison, the team is one of the best rushing offenses in the league and is actually stout against opponents’ run game.

On the season, the Falcons are averaging 33.7 rush attempts per game (3rd) compared to 22.3 pass attempts per game (30th). I wouldn’t be surprised if Mariota didn’t even come close to that number tonight. And rightfully so. Arthur Smith’s offense averages 162.9 yards per game on the ground (4th) compared to 157.2 yards through the air (30th). Those tendencies will be valuable in a game affected by strong winds and heavy rains. And the defensive numbers say the same thing.

Dean Pees’ unit is giving up a league-worst 300 passing yards per game on 7.4 yards per pass (30th) compared to 106.9 rushing yards per game (8th) on 4.3 yards per carry (12th). Despite the Falcons’ bend don’t break philosophy, it’s been breaking a lot recently. Fortunately, in this matchup, the Panthers will be forced to run the ball or throw it with P.J. Walker under harsh conditions.

To be fair, Walker brutalized the Falcons’ secondary in the first matchup — 19-of-36 passing for 317 yards, one touchdown, and one score. Still, the Falcons should get help with the weather. On the flip side of things, despite being more equipped to defend the run, Atlanta’s defense was gashed by Carolina’s runners in the first contest. As a team, the Panthers posted 169 yards and three scores on 36 carries. The Falcons will have to be better in that area if they want to complete the season sweep of their division rivals.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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