Match-up: Carolina Panthers (3-6-1) @ Atlanta Falcons (3-6)
Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Date: Sunday, November 16, 2014
Time: 1:00 PM EST
While in any normal year both teams would be dead in the water at this point, this is not a normal year for the NFC South. With a win, coupled with a Saints loss, each team would move into a first place tie in the dreadful NFC South division. We all know in the NFL, if a team can get hot going into the playoffs, anything can happen. Both teams are looking to get some momentum going to jump ahead in the division and make it into the playoffs. The Falcons are coming off a win in Tampa Bay that snapped a five game losing streak and are looking to go 4-0 in the division. Meanwhile, the Panthers are coming off their fourth straight loss in which they were pummeled by the Mark Sanchez-led Eagles 45-21 on Monday night. Atlanta is going in with an offensive line decimated by injuries. Meanwhile the Carolina defense has vastly underperformed as they have struggled to pressure the quarterback and the secondary has been unable to stop opposing receivers.
The Atlanta offensive line vs. the Panthers front seven. Something has to give in this game. The Falcons line will either perform well and protect Matt Ryan or the Panthers front seven will finally get some pressure on the quarterback. The Falcons are down to their third-string center, James Stone, and their fourth right tackle, Ryan Schraeder. Both guys are undrafted free agents. Schraeder is in his second season and Stone is a rookie. Despite being way down the depth chart, both lineman have held their own in the last two games and have provided Matt Ryan with the time he needs to find an open man downfield. Last season in the season finale, the Panthers sacked Ryan nine times and hit him 14 times. However, this Panthers defense has underperformed all year and doesn’t seem as strong as it did last season. The Falcons are hoping that trend continues.
Players to Watch
For the Panthers, all eyes will be on Cam Newton and his offensive line after a dismal performance on Monday against the Eagles. Newton went 25-40 for 306 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. However, Cam can’t take all the blame as he was pressured throughout the night. He was sacked 9 times and hit more. As much as the Falcons have had trouble on their line, the Panthers haven’t been much better.
For the Falcons, it’s the Falcons four man running back committee of Steven Jackson, Antone Smith, Devonta Freeman, and Jacquizz Rodgers. While the Carolina pass defense has been bad, the run defense may be worse. If the Falcons can start off strong in the run game, it will be a good day for the Atlanta offense.
The Falcons are looking to build off the momentum they gained last week after a road win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers are looking to avoid a five game losing streak. While the Falcons offense looks to be in a revival and the defense has been improving recently, the Panthers are faltering on both sides of the ball. At home, it looks like everything is leaning the Falcons way, and they will win this game 27-16.