Atlanta Falcons fans rejoice! The Falcons have reached the pinnacle of perfect balance yet again. At 3-3, the Falcons have reached .500 for the first time since November 4th, 2018. But there is no time to celebrate. Atlanta is in a prime position to take control of their destiny this season. That starts this Sunday against their divisional rival, Carolina Panthers. The Panthers are reeling after four straight losses, the last being a complete meltdown against the New York Giants. The Falcons would like nothing more but to pile on a fifth-straight loss at home. It won’t be easy. The Panthers are still a talented, young football team. To combat that, the Falcons need to steady the pace Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Steady Pace Needed for Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina
The Rise Before the Fall
Three weeks into this NFL season, there were but a few teams that remained undefeated. However, there was a feeling that maybe, just maybe, a few of those teams lucked out with easy scheduling at the beginning of the year. One of those teams was the Carolina Panthers. They benefited from a putrid showing from Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints and then beat up on the lowly New York Jets and Houston Texans. The next week marked their first true test against the Dallas Cowboys and they could not have failed more miserably.
The Cowboys ended that game with 245 rushing yards, 143 of them coming from Ezekiel Elliot. Heck, even Dak Prescott decided to get into the action with four rushes for 35 yards, including a 21-yarder. He might as well after he torched their defense for 188 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
After losing heartbreakers at home in back-to-back weeks, the Panthers licked their wounds and looked to rebound against the Giants. The play of Sam Darnold had steadily been declining and finally came to a head after a 16/25, 111 yards, 0 touchdown, and 1 interception game. Darnold was then benched for the XFL standout, P.J. Walker, and the team ended up losing 25-3.
Taking the Fight to the Panthers
Being honest here, the Panthers are down bad; really bad. Sam Darnold has regressed week after week, Christian McCaffery is still on injured reserve, and now they have been pushed into trade rumors for Deshaun Watson. The organization is train-wreck right now in Charlotte, which spells opportunity for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Carolina defense works best when they get off the field in a hurry. That statement may seem obvious but there is a deeper meaning to it. Against the Saints, the Jets, and the Texans, defensive coordinator Phil Snow was able to get into down-and-distance scenarios that benefited his style of play. Jameis Winston saw blitzes on 60% of his dropbacks in his game against Carolina. The Panthers are at their best when they can pin their ears back and get Brian Burns and company to get to the quarterback.
Another thing that Carolina likes to do is get off the field early. Carolina is not a team that relies on its power but its speed. Due to that fact, Phil Snow is an aggressive play-caller. And he is looking to get off the field as soon as possible. However, if the Carolina defense is on the field for too long, their quality of play takes a massive hit.
The Falcons will need to focus on success on the early downs and keeping drives alive as they have all season. Atlanta ranks sixth in third-down conversion due to their ability to succeed on early downs. They will also need to keep the ball in their hands and tire this Carolina defense out. A mixture of short to intermediate throws and a good running game should do the trick.
33-14, Atlanta Falcons
Yes, that is a three-score margin. And there are two words for why it is a three-score margin. Why not? The Falcons have improved offensively every game since the horrible opening day against the Philadelphia Eagles. The way that Kyle Pitts has been playing will have him in contention for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. While on the subject of Kyle Pitts, who on Carolina is stopping him in a 1-on-1 situation? Which the Falcons will see plenty of with the way that Carolina comes after the quarterback. With the way things are shaping up, it seems that this is the game where the Falcons can steady their pace and run the clock out with minimal worry.
As far as the other side of the ball, the Atlanta defense is not good. That is well known. But the play from young guys such as Adetokunbo Ogundeji and Jaylinn Hawkins has been stellar the past few weeks. Mix that with Sam Darnold playing like Sam Darnold again and primary target Robby Anderson being statistically one of the worst receivers in the league right now. There are going to be plenty of opportunities for the Atlanta Falcons to pull away in this one.