Though they've been slow out of the gate, averaging only 17.3 points per game and coming off a 36-7 loss to the New York Giants this past week, the Panthers are still a dangerous team.
Centered around quarterback Cam Newton’s versatility and the team’s ability to run the football, Carolina hasn’t been able to reinforce their identity due to a paltry defense that is allowing 383 yards and 26.3 points per game so far.
The Falcons, however, are rolling right along with a 3-0 record. Their offense only averages 345 yards per game, but Matt Ryan and Co. are very efficient with their scoring chances and are tied for third in the NFL at 31.3 points per contest.
The fact that Atlanta can come at opponents from all over the field and possesses an above average defense should keep them atop the NFC throughout the regular season.
Here is one bold prediction for each team in Sunday’s matchup:
Cam Newton Rushes for 100 Yards for the First Time in His Career
Newton is one of the most dangerous dual-threat quarterbacks the NFL has even seen. His big arm and ability to get out of trouble and create plays with his legs is precisely why the Panthers took him No. 1 overall in last year’s draft.
Newton set the NFL mark for passing yards as a rookie last season with 4,051 and he also threw 21 touchdown passes. He ran for another 706 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Though off to a slow start, a breakout game is just around the corner for the talented quarterback.
The Falcons have given up 128.7 yards per game on the ground and five yards per carry so far this season. Although the Panthers could be playing catch up for much of the afternoon, establishing a running game is necessary for this team to have a chance.
Falcons Rush for 175 Yards and 2 Touchdowns
The Falcons are one of the more balanced teams in the NFL, utilizing both the pass and the run to set the other up in creating a very efficient offensive attack. However, head coach Mike Smith and offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter are very adept at playing to the opposing defense’s weaknesses.
The Panthers rank 27th in the league against the run, allowing 139.3 yards per game, so Atlanta would do well to exploit this aspect of Carolina’s defense. While the Falcons have more weapons at Ryan’s disposal than in the running game, Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers are capable of good production.
Atlanta should control this game from the start, and will certainly want to slow things down to prevent Newton and Co. from getting anything going.
Look for Turner and Rodgers to have their biggest game of the year on Sunday.