What to watch for today against the Panthers

As we look ahead to the game this Sunday, keep in mind that the Falcons have not secured a playoff spot and this is huge opportunity to get a game closer at winning the division. The Falcons start their tough second half schedule off with a big contest against the Panthers on the road.

Buckle up and enjoy! It’s a big NFC South clash between the second and third (one game out of first place) Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons. This is the Falcons first division game and the Panthers third. The Falcons took both games against the Cats a season ago by scores of 48-33 and 33-16, but this is a different season and both teams are much different than they were last season. Both teams have plenty of momentum as well coming off of wins last week when the Panthers defeated the Bucs by a score of 17-3, and the falcons beat the Jets 25-20.

This game should be a low scoring affair, unlike they have been in the past. Both with defenses ranked 5 and 6, plus this is a rival game which makes the defense play even tougher considering what is at stake. The Falcons offense has been off to a slow start scoring wise, but statistically, the Falcons offense is still number one. The problem, once again, is that they have failed to take opportunities in the redzone like they did two years ago. Look for the Falcons to try and mix up the offense a little bit and see if they can start to work things out like they did last season.

Also, a big key for the offense will be to stay on the field a little longer. This defense could possibly be better than the sixth ranked overall if fatigue wasn’t a factor, due to the lack of time of possession this Falcon’s offense has carried, and especially in the second half. The defense will try to stop Cam Newton’s offensive squad as the over the past few years we know has been quite hard outside of holding the Panthers to 13 points at home in 2015, to give them their only regular season loss that year.

The Panthers will look a little bit different than they did last week, after trading top wide out, Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills right before the deadline five days ago. Benjamin has been considered the star receiver ever since being drafted out of Florida State, although injury has been the plague familiar with Benjamin. He missed a few games in his rookie year and the entire 2015 season after a knee injury in the off season, while also appearing to bang up a few weeks ago against the Saints and has been on high notice ever since. This could have led to a trade considering that the Panthers had seen enough and were afraid that they didn’t want to take any chances from there on out.

Injury report:

The Panthers could be without three of the starters on their offensive line today with Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner and John Theus. Theus did not practice at all on Thursday and looks to be downgraded to out with a mild concussion, while Kalil was also without pads on Thursday due to a neck injury, and Turner did not practice all week with a knee injury. The Panthers could also be without Johnathon Stewart and Cam Newton after both were banged up after the win against the Buccaneers last week. Stewart was a full go in practice on Thursday, but Newton was limited in both Wednesday and Thursday, but he is expected to play today.

The Falcons are actually looking pretty healthy with only minimal concerns on who will not play this Sunday. Duke Riley appears that he will be out with that injured knee from last week and did not practice with the team at all this week. Devonta Freeman was limited all week with a neck/shoulder injury, but he seems to be a go. And finally, Taylor Gabriel, Grady Jarrett, Brian Poole and Courtney Upshaw look like they will play as well after all of them were limited in Wednesday’s practice, but were a full go in Thursday’s practice.

This should be an exciting game on Sunday afternoon. The weather for game time looks to be a little shady with clouds but a high temperature of 74 and thank god we don’t have to play in the pouring down rain again. With a win and a Saints loss to the Buccaneers, the Falcons can pull into first place with a tie with the Saints, and we would also have the edge with a better division record.

My prediction:

Passing: Falcons

Rushing: Falcons

Run Defense: Panthers

Pass Defense: Falcons

Special Teams: Falcons

Coaching: Panthers

Falcons 23-Panthers 20

I believe that the Falcons will edge out the Panthers with the help of Matt Bryant and possibly a game winning field goal in the dwindling seconds of the game. The Panthers are a little decimated with the injury report compared to the Falcons tiny list. The Falcons defense will be just a little too much for the Panthers offensive line right now and this will be a high turnover game with the edge going to the guys in red. Hopefully, Steve Sarkisian can somewhat figure out the formula for success in an NFL offense and the Falcons move to 5-3 on the season.

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