This afternoon sees the undefeated Panthers looking to keep their streak alive against a Falcons team that had lost 6 games straight leading up to Week 15s match-up against the Jaguars. The Panthers currently hold the league’s highest total scoring offense, whereas the Falcons currently sit at 19th in the NFL in scoring. Although they sit so far apart in scoring; the Panthers and Falcons currently sit 8th and 9th in total yards per game respectively. In this game we will see two different styles of Offense; the Panthers use their ground and pound style of attack; 3rd in the NFL to pummel their opponents into submission, going up against the 7th ranked passing attack of the Falcons with Matt Ryan slinging the ball out to Wide Receiver Julio Jones, Tight End Jacob Tamme, and also Devonta Freeman out of the Backfield. During training camp the Panthers lost star Wide Receiver Kelvin Benjamin in a non-contact injury with a torn ACL. Since then, the Panthers have since leaned on their rushing attack, combining for over 2000 yards on the ground through the multiple headed attack of Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. Even without their main receiving threat on the outside, they’ve managed to combine for over 3000 yards through the air, with Tight End Greg Olsen leading the pack during a career year, with 1048 yards and 7 Touchdowns so far. There’s also the small fact that they’re 14-0 so far this season, including a 38-0 beat-down of the Falcons at home in week 14. The Falcons started the season 5-0, and many thought they’d be able to carry on this streak before falling to the Saints in the Superdome. Since then, they beat the Titans, then went 0-6 against the likes of the Buccaneers, 49ers, Colts, Vikings and the Panthers. Only scoring 86 points whilst conceding 145 overall. The main reason for this is that Matt Ryan has been forced to throw the ball 548 times; which is 4th in the entire NFL. Through these 548 attempts he’s managed to complete 360 passes for 18 touchdowns, however the killer for the Falcons has been the turnovers. Matt Ryan has thrown 15 interceptions and fumbled 10 times, the running backs have lost 4 fumbles so far.
Three keys to the game:
1. Will the Panthers shut out the Falcons again?
Last time these two teams met, the Panthers absolutely obliterated the Falcons, scoring 38 points, whilst shutting down the Falcons Offense.
2. Will Josh Norman keep his cool?
Last week, things got a bit “chippy” between Josh Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. resulting in a one-game suspension for Odell and a large fine for the Cornerback. There’s been a lot of chat across the airwaves between Julio Jones and Josh Norman, and part of me is wondering whether the pre-game words will spill out onto the field.
3. The Panthers’ consistency
The Panthers started hot but rapidly let the Giants back into the game last week, only to score on their last possession to remain undefeated. They will need to be much more consistent this week against a Falcons team that has allowed few big plays late in games this season.
Match-up to watch: Josh Norman vs Julio Jones
Last time these two teams met, Julio Jones was held for 88 yards over 7 catches; one of his lowest of the season. Today we once again get to see arguably one of the best Wide Receivers in the game lining up opposite one of the best Cornerbacks in the league, it’s going to be a battle for sure.
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
Last time these two teams met, the Panthers steamrolled the Falcons and I expect more of the same.