While the Atlanta Falcons (2-5) will try to rebound after a beat down against the Arizona Cardinals, the Carolina Panthers (4-3) are on a three-game win streak, as they took care of business against the short-handed Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Panthers may have not gotten the hype like the Falcons did even before the season began, it will be the Panthers that will be favored to come out on top against a Falcons’ team that saw its hope crushed with their latest defeat. If the Falcons’ offense struggled that much against the Cardinals, Matt Ryan and Co. will be in for a long night against one of the top defensive units in the NFL.
Starting off with the Falcons, other than Ryan and his new top target Harry Douglas, everyone else has been very inconsistent in terms of their production. Although Douglas has emerged into a dynamic playmaker for the Falcons, losing two key offensive players has started to take its toll on an offense that will be on life support against a suffocating defense.
Against the Cardinals, the Falcons’ offensive line allowed Ryan to be hit 11 times and sacked on four separate occasions. Even worse, despite Steven Jackson returning, the offensive line created little to zero running room, as they team gained 27 yards on 14 attempts on the ground.
The Falcons shouldn’t expect to see their ground game getting resurrected anytime soon, as the Panthers are ranked 2nd in rushing defense, allowing 79.3 yard per game this season. Heading into this game, the Falcons are ranked last in the NFL with 62.4 yards per game on the ground, and that number figures to be much lower when these two teams meet.
As for the passing attack, Ryan will once again target his two top playmakers in Douglas and Tony Gonzalez. If the Cardinals forced Ryan into four interceptions, the Falcons better hope that the offensive line can give Ryan at least time to hike the ball against the 10th ranked passing defense in the NFL.
While the Panthers are surging at the right time, unfortunately for the Falcons, they are headed in the wrong direction and may end up being hammered by a team that has played excellent in the past few weeks.
Since their 0-2 start, the Panthers are 4-1 in their last five games and have played exceptionally well on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Cam Newton, who is coming off one of his best games so far, seems to be back to the dynamic player that we saw in his rookie year.
While Newton continues to struggle at times with his accuracy, the Panther’s rushing attack has been on a roll, as they are averaging 130 yards per game on the ground, which ranks them eighth in the NFL. As they go up against a Falcons’ team that allowed the Cardinals to break off a 80-yard run, they should have no problem whether rushing the ball or throwing the ball for that matter.
The Panthers will have a favorable matchup to go two games above .500, as the Falcons are clearly an afterthought at this point of the season. Although Ryan will always give the Falcons a chance to compete, the Panthers may have a field day against a team that has made mediocre offenses look amazing and bad defensive teams look stunning.
As these two teams meet in Week 9 of the NFL, it will be clear for all to see that the Falcons and Panthers are headed in opposite directions. The supposedly Super Bowl bound Falcons will have to muster everything they have just to give themselves a chance to win. The odds will be stacked against the Falcons, and should prepare for the worst.
To the Panthers, it will be a great opportunity to not only improve their record in the NFC South, but to continue their dominance and prove that they are ready to take the next step. For the Falcons, it will be a fight for their pride and respect around the league.
We will see if the Falcons have anything left, and if they act like champions against the uprising Panthers ready to steal their thunder completely.