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When Carolina Has the Ball
The Carolina Panthers are an exciting offensive team to watch. Whether it's an option run with Cam Newton and DeAngelo Williams or a bomb to Steve Smith, the Panthers are fun to watch with the football.
Fun and games have their place, but to win games the Panthers must learn to get a lead and then control the clock and pace of the game with a power run game. Too often the Panthers have found themselves playing from behind, which allows them to unleash Newton's rocket arm. It doesn't result in wins, though, and at the end of the day that's what matters.
Atlanta will bring the heat off the edge, especially if John Abraham is back this week. The Atlanta linebackers are fast enough to spy Newton, but they'll have to play double duty in covering tight ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen. If Newton can hit his tight ends early and get the Atlanta safeties creeping up, he'll have his shots downfield.
When Atlanta Has the Ball
The Falcons have struggled to run the ball this year. This should be the week Michael Turner breaks out.
With two rookies at defensive tackle and two starters missing at linebacker, the Carolina secondary has a giant hole in the middle of the field. Atlanta will let Turner lose behind Joe Hawley and co. on the inside of the Falcon offensive line.
Carolina has to find a way to get ahead and force Atlanta into passing situations. If the Panthers can force the ball into Matt Ryan's hands, they have the talent to pressure him in the backfield. If they cannot stop Turner, though, the game will be lost.
Prediction: Atlanta 35, Carolina 28