Pivotal NFC South Showdown

NFC Game Of The Week

Atlanta Falcons (4-3) at Carolina Panthers (5-3)

Falcons: Here’s something that we haven’t been able to say in quite some time about them, they finally won a game on Sunday for the first time since week three when they edged out the Detroit Lions for a close win. Since then, they have not done too well. They dropped two games at home to the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins and would also end up losing the Super Bowl rematch in Foxboro against the Patriots. The losing streak came to an end when they defeated the Jets in week eight and Matt Ryan had a nice game throwing for 254 yards and two touchdown passes despite some awful weather conditions. It’s more than obvious that the Falcons offense isn’t the same unit that it once was and even at the beginning of the season after their big win against the Packers in week two, you heard everyone say that this is still the team to beat in the conference. My, how things have changed. Two of those three losses each had one thing in common: They had leads and blew them. It’s definitely a complacency thing with them. The win against the Jets was probably the best they’ve looked overall as an entire team. Matt took care of the ball and all of the weapons made plays and their defense finally showed and they were aggressive from the first quarter to the fourth quarter and that is a good team win. They will look to keep it rolling with a divisional showdown against a team they owned last year.

Panthers: After that surprisingly hot start, they’ve cooled down considerably. To some, Cam Newton was looking similar to the guy we saw in 2015 that won the league MVP. He was getting healthier after a lingering shoulder issue and he helped lead Carolina to a few big wins over the Patriots and Lions, both were on the road. As of late, he’s struggled and I think the team is depending on him to do it all and he will press things at times, meaning he will throw the ball just to get it out of his hands. It’s basic football fundamentals: If you feel the pressure coming you can do one of two things, the first is take the sack and the second is throwing the ball out of bounds and if you do either one of those things, you still have the ball! One thing I’ve noticed about them this year is how they’re leaning away from running the football and when they do decide to show a ground, it’s usually Cam as the leading rusher and he simply can’t do it all as football is a team sport. They really have improved on the defensive side of things this year compared to 2016 after deciding not to re-sign Josh Norman to a long-term deal and it hurt them, especially in the secondary. To remain in this divisional race, they will need to win this game against the Falcons.

Falcons Player To Watch: Tevin Coleman– Devonta Freeman maybe sidelined for this one with an injury. You may be without one good running back and you have another one that’s more than capable of making plays out of the backfield. He can also snag a few passes if targeted.

Panthers Player To Watch: James Bradberry– He was the guy that saw a lot of Julio Jones last year and of course, he’ll see him again on Sunday. The Panthers secondary is a much better tier of their football team now after a very down season last year without its best player from the season ago in Josh Norman.

Final Analysis: This is a battle of the most recent league MVP’s and NFC Super Bowl representatives. The Falcons simply dominated the Panthers last year in both meetings. Julio Jones had the game of his life. On Sunday against the Jets, Matt Ryan was able to spread the football around and Carolina will have a tough time trying to defend that. It’s key that the Panthers establish their running game with someone other than Cam. For Atlanta, keep the same aggression that you had on defense last week.

Prediction: Falcons 29 Panthers 21