X-Factors to watch in Falcons vs. Panthers

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The Falcons are set to square off with the Panthers this Sunday for the pair’s season opener in Atlanta. On paper, the home team should have the edge in most areas, but it’s a divisional matchup and Week 1; anything can happen.

I figured I would do an X-Factor article each week, highlighting some of the players that could be the deciding influence on which team wins. This one might not seem like groundbreaking analysis because the quarterback position is the most important in all of sports, but hear me out.

Bryce Young

The Panthers are dealing with a bevy of injuries in their wide receiver room. Carolina already didn’t have the most imposing set of skill players, but now they could be down Terrace Marshall, Adam Thielen, and DJ Chark Jr.

Moreover, Young could be running for his life on Sunday. The Panthers’ offensive line is porous and looked rough during the club’s preseason exhibition against the Jets. New York’s defensive front is among the best in football, but it was abundantly clear Carolina’s front five isn’t great.

Combine those two facts, and it’s a tall task for Bryce Young on Sunday. He’s got to do a lot to pull out a victory. He’s surely capable; that’s why he went first overall, but the kind of heroic performance he’ll have to put up isn’t likely.

Desmond Ridder

Once again, this isn’t groundbreaking. The Falcons ceiling in 2023 falls at Ridder’s feet. The kid doesn’t have to be a hero, unlike his counterpart.

All Ridder has to do is keep the train on the tracks. Don’t turn the ball over, and make the plays that Arthur Smith schemes up. Act as a point guard and distribute the ball to his playmakers and let them do what they do best.

Desmond Ridder has to do a hell of a lot less than Bryce Young to win this game, but nobody is comparing the two’s abilities. The supporting cast of each quarterback is wildly different. Atlanta’s offensive line is among the best in football and the skill group is criminally underrated.

If there are a couple of reasons the Falcons don’t win on Sunday, it’ll likely be because Desmond Ridder doesn’t manage the offense or Bryce Young puts the Panthers on his back.

Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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