This is a preview of the Atlanta Falcons at the Carolina Panthers game to be played on Sunday December 11th 2011. The Panthers will have a rematch against a Falcons team that slapped them around in a 31 to 17 loss earlier in the season. To read my review of the first Panthers and Falcons game click here.
Cam Newton is playing well although against Tampa and Indianapolis which are not exactly defensive powerhouses. The Falcons defense isn’t elite either at least not against the pass where they rank 21st in the NFL. The Falcons run defense is good as they are ranked 3rd but that is in part because teams throw so much on Atlanta.
For the Carolina Panthers to beat the Atlanta Falcons they have to hold Michael Turner in check. Turner burned the Panthers for 139 yards in the first game and was the big reason for the Falcons victory. The Falcons rank only 16th in rushing but the Panthers defense ranks 27th in the league currently.
The Panthers offense must not abandon the run against Atlanta. Their balanced offense is playing well and Williams and Stewart need their carries. Cam Newton also needs to get his tight ends involved in the offense more even though Shockey is banged up a little. LaFell and Naanee have stepped up because Steve Smith and the tight ends are being covered so well, but that needs to change.
The fact that Cam Newton is so mobile will give Steve Smith a chance to get open despite the expected double coverage on him by Atlanta. Cam Newton can buy some time and Smith will exploit that against the Falcons and could have a big day.
Atlanta will be fired up coming into Carolina as they fight to remain in the NFL wildcard picture. However the Carolina Panthers would like nothing better than to play spoiler to the Falcons. The NFC South has a history of home teams winning most of the games and I think Carolina can upset the Falcons on Sunday.
For the Panthers to upset the Falcons they need to keep the turnovers and penalties down thus winning the field position and time of possession battle. Keeping Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and company off the field is a key to a Panthers victory over the Falcons.
Look for James Anderson to step up as he gets a little healthier and Dan Conner has to be active in stopping Michael Turner. I don’t fear Matt Ryan as much as Turner but the Falcons do have great weapons in the passing game.
My prediction for the Atlanta Falcons at the Carolina Panthers game is that Carolina will win 28 to 24. The Panthers have some momentum building and could play the spoiler role often for the rest of the 2011 NFL season.