The Atlanta Falcons (3-4) will be back home on Sunday to take on the Carolina Panthers in Mercedes-Benz Stadium at 1 p.m EST. A matchup of two division rivals, this has turned out to be an improbable battle for first and second place in the division.
The Panthers, coming off a very impressive 21-3 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will look to replicate this performance this week.
The Panthers offense, led by PJ Walker, has been the league’s worst offense. As a unit they average 271.9 yards of total offense; 169.7 passing yards per game and 102.1 rushing yards per game.
Walker, who stepped in for the injured Baker Mayfield, has done his best but hasn’t been anything special, completing 70.5% of his passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns for a total QBR of 33.
Running back Chuba Hubbard, who took over last week after the Christian McCaffrey trade, has been solid, but he is out this week.
Wide receiver DJ Moore, who is the last piece this Panthers offense has, has played well, catching 27 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
The offensive line hasn’t played terrible, according to Pro Football Network they are a tier 3 offensive line.
Defensively, the Panthers haven’t been anything special. As a unit they give up 351.9 yards of total offense a game; 231 passing yards per game and 120.9 rushing yards per game.
The Falcons, coming off a disappointing 35-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, will look to rebound this week against a division rival.
Offensively, the Falcons have been performing above expectations. As a unit they average 308.6 yards of total offense a game; 151.7 passing yards per game and 156.9 rushing yards per game.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota has been solid, but nothing spectacular, completing 61.3% of his passes for 1,179 yards and 7 touchdowns for a total QBR of 58.8.
The backfield of Tyler Allgeier and Caleb Huntley continues to play very well; last week they rushed the ball 29 times for 107 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receiver Drake London, got off to a fast start, but has gone quiet these past couple weeks has hauled in 26 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Kyle Pitts has arguably been the most disappointing player this season, has caught 16 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line continues to impress; according to Pro Football Network they are a tier 2 offensive line.
Defensively, the Falcons have been starting to pick it up but are still not great. The stats are very influenced from last week’s game, as a unit they are giving up 406.9 yards of total offense a game; 306.6 passing yards per game and 100.3 rushing yards per game.
The defensive secondary is still banged up. Cornerback A.J. Terrell was ruled out on Friday.
The Falcons are favorites for the first time this season. The Falcons come into this game as 4.5-point favorites.
The Falcons come into this game a little banged up. Obviously they’ll be without Cordarrelle Patterson and Casey Hayward, who were both put on IR in previous weeks. Terrell was scratched on Friday.
Offensively, the Falcons are going to continue to run the ball. After seeing that Arthur Smith will run the ball down three possessions, it makes it known that this team is going to run the ball no matter the circumstances.
The backfield of Tyler Allgeier, Caleb Huntley, and Avery Williams has played played admirably in the absence of Cordarrelle Patterson and will look to continue to run all over defenses. They should be able to as the Panthers are giving up 120.9 rushing yards per game.
Drake London and Kyle Pitts have been pretty much invisible these past few weeks and I anticipate it to stay that way as it seems Mariota has lost the trust of playcallers, but hopefully they can at least show some production.
London will see matchups of Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson, it should be interesting to see how London plays against these unique corners.
Pitts will see matchups of Sean Chandler and Jeremy Chinn, these are very favorable matchups and Pitts could possibly have a big game if the passing game opens up. Mariota had 13 attempts last week.
The offensive line is facing a relatively favorable matchup this week, and they should be able to give Mariota time and open up holes for the running backs. They are facing the talented Brian Burns, who could be in line for a big game.
Defensively the Falcons have a very favorable matchup this week. After last week’s performance this unit should be hungry to prove that they are better than what they showed against the Bengals.
The secondary could be a little banged up so they will need that next man up mentality. The matchup to look out for is the secondary vs. Moore, without Terrell, defensive coordinator Dean Pees could use a variety of match ups to slow the Panthers’ No. 1 receiver.
Grady Jarrett and company have a relatively favorable matchup this week and should be able to generate pressure. The pass rush has 11 sacks this season after only having 18 all of last year. If the Falcons can get to Walker and make him uncomfortable, this game will be over very quickly.
Linebackers Rashaan Evans, Mykal Walker, and Troy Andersen have been playing well and face a depleted Panthers backfield on Sunday.
Offensively with PJ Walker at QB1, they will most likely try to run the ball like they did last week. They’ll be down Hubbard, but D’Onta Foreman had a big week against the Buccaneers with 15 carries for 118 yards.
So far this season, the Panthers have given up 20 sacks. This week they’ll have their work cut out for them as they are facing Jarrett and Company. If the Panthers want to win, they have to protect Walker.
Defensively, the Panthers will have to focus on stopping the run. The secondary is also facing tough matchups in Pitts and London. The biggest factor for the Panthers defense this week is how their front seven plays. They will need to rely on Brian Burns and Derrick Brown to create pressure. The linebacker core will also need to step up in hopes of stopping the run.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Panthers line up against the Falcons, will they put all of their focus on stopping the run and load the box? , or will they allow the Falcons to run the ball and drop everyone back to try and stop Pitts and London?
This game will be a battle of two division rivals. The Falcons are fighting for a playoff spot and are not looking to slow down for anyone. The Falcons should be able to take advantage of this undermanned Panthers team on both sides of the ball. However, if the Falcons come into this game thinking it will be an easy win, they’ll be in for a rude awakening as the Panthers have proven they can beat any team any week.
Score Prediction: Panthers 10 Falcons 27