Chase Irle’s Prediction
This is a must-win — not for the Falcons; their playoff chances are doomed — but for Dan Quinn. If he doesn’t win this one, I’m not sure how they don’t let go of him after the game. Atlanta should be able to put points up against Carolina’s defense. However, they will have problems versus Joe Brady and this Panthers offense.
Quinn has had incredible success against Carolina as head coach of the Falcons, but this is a totally different regime he’s up against, and Brady should be able to scheme things up that will give a decimated Atlanta defense fits. Originally, I had the Falcons losing a close one, but with A.J. Terrell back from the COVID-19 list, and a couple of other defensive starters possibly returning, I’ll swing the other way. Falcons win by a field goal.
Falcons 27, Panthers 24
Jake Gordon’s Prediction
Part of my dumb brain keeps thinking back to how good Dan Quinn has been against Carolina. The smart person in me remembers Carolina is 2-0 without Christian McCaffrey. I’ve been saying it, Teddy Bridgewater isn’t the flashiest QB — but he’s steady. Joe Brady is an offensive genius, and I would love to poach him to pair with Eric Bieniemy in Atlanta. That’s beside the point, I’m fading Atlanta until further notice. Falcons drop a heartbreaker.
Falcons 31, Panthers 35
Alex Lord’s Prediction
Back for another prediction, and like always, I will compare opposing position groups as the main factor in my prediction. It seems like a cruel joke that Matt Rhule and the Teddy Bridgewater led Carolina Panthers are looking to improve on their 2-2 record, while a Matt Ryan led Falcons team is still searching for their first win of this 2020 season.
Beginning with the Carolina offensive line and the Falcons front seven, like many other matchups, it will come down to injuries. If Marlon Davidson, Grady Jarrett, and Takk McKinley all play, it would sway the advantage towards Atlanta, but all were limited in practice this week. If two of the three do not play, give a slight advantage to Carolina’s offensive line as they are average in both run and pass protection.
The Falcons offensive line has been a bright spot in what has mostly been a disappointing season. The Panthers front seven is young outside of Kawaan Short, who will give the Atlanta interior all they can handle. Derrick Brown is still developing the level of skill needed to be successful as a pass rusher in the NFL, but right now, he is as stout against the run as any three-technique. With Shaq Thompson starting slow, the Falcons tackles should be as good as they have been on the perimeter. It’s the interior that is cause for concern. Za’Darius Smith terrorized the interior offensive line last week; the group must give Ryan more time, or it will be another poor offensive performance for Atlanta.
Now comparing the secondary of the Panthers to the Falcons skill positions. Julio Jones did not practice yesterday and is questionable to play Sunday. Eli Apple and Donte Jackson were both limited participants in practice yesterday, and with their availability up in the air, this is a crapshoot. Jaire Alexander held Calvin Ridley to zero catches in last week’s Monday night matchup. If Donte Jackson is healthy and Julio is out, I would say it is even. If Julio plays, regardless of who is healthy for Carolina, they will be at a disadvantage.
Injuries have decimated the Atlanta secondary. Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen are both questionable as they were limited in practice yesterday. However, the team will have their top two corners on the field for the first time this year. Kendall Sheffield and AJ Terrell are finally available together, and we will see how they fare against Rhule and Joe Brady. DJ Moore and Robby Anderson have proven to be effective in this offensive system, in part due to the scheme. Advantage: Panthers
This is a fairly even matchup on paper, but Atlanta is severely outmatched mentally in my mind. Carolina’s Matt Rhule and Joe Brady will out-scheme the Falcons defense all game long. Look for a more balanced attack from Carolina, and if Atlanta can respond with points of their own, this will come down to a last-second drive. Falcons get their first win of the season on a vintage Matty Ice fourth-quarter drive!
Atlanta 30, Carolina 27