With Tampa Bay and especially New Orleans sputtering, the NFC South race may be between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers. But more than a playoff race is at stake. Last Monday the anniversary of the reopening of the Superdome game the Saints the hope of proving once again that they own the Falcons. It didn’t happen. Next Sunday, the Falcons will be in a similar position. Carolina was 14-0 and two opponents with non-winning records left. They had clear sailing to 16-0.
Historically, the Falcons have tended to beat the Panthers. And when the Panthers came to the Georgia Dome, it appeared that no matter how good the Panthers were… they were still the Panthers.
Now they want revenge. And Vegas has them getting it, despite them being 1-2 while the Falcons are 2-1. The logic is, “who has Atlanta beaten?” The 2-1 Raiders. Maybe their defense is statistically terrible, but how much of that is because they played Atlanta? Also — although analysts who track all teams might miss this detail — the Falcons, and for that matter, the Panthers, face a Saints team that is very different from the one the rest of the league faces. For example, while the 2012 Saints were also horrible defensively, they twice held the 13-3 Falcons under 30 points and probably would’ve gotten the sweep if not for the 5 interceptions Drew Brees threw in Atlanta. Also, New Orleans twice came close to beating Atlanta to Carolina’s first loss last year. With a backup quarterback the first time. Plus, we faced them at their anniversary. Make no mistake, they gave it all they usually give the Falcons and Panthers.
As far as Carolina goes, who have they beaten? OK, Denver is really good. But losing to a Vikings team with a broken offense? If you think that excellent defense and horrible offense wins championships, I respectfully refer you to the Houston Texans and at least last year, the New York Jets.
Getting back to the rivalry, there’s actually a chance the Atlanta gets a decent pass rush going. Yes, it’s horrible. It’s always horrible. Nonetheless, we have averaged two sacks a game on Cam Newton over the last two seasons. Oh, and offensive tackle Michael Oher is out.
Do I think we can win this game? Yes. It all depends on how well the offense plays. If we get anything close to the amount of yardage we’ve been getting, we should win. But getting Julio Jones more involved can’t hurt. Perhaps the defenses we’ve been playing against have inflated the numbers. Then again, Carolina is on track to get 32 sacks compared to 40 in 2014 and 44 in 2015. And they’ve been up against bad Minnesota and San Francisco offenses, though San Fran did score 27 points. So I see little indication that it will be that easy for them the reach the backfield on defense. Finally, ball security has been a serious problem with seven turnovers in the last two games, four of which against that very bad San Francisco team.
The final point I want to make is that how this game will look is unpredictable. Because Atlanta has faced offense-first teams and Carolina has faced defense-first teams, I really can’t tell how the score will be. But I think that if the Falcons can put up points, they’ll win. RISE UP!!!