The Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons are meeting for the second time this season on Sunday. Atlanta held serve at home 27-17 the first time these two teams met and now it will be up to a suddenly surging Panthers team to win at home.
Panthers fans have got to enjoy back-to-back wins, but it is important to note that both wins came against struggling teams. Indianapolis is winless on the season and Tampa Bay was without its starting quarterback Josh Freeman. The Falcons are coming off a disappointing loss to Houston and will be fighting for their playoff lives against the Panthers.
If Carolina can pull of the upset it would be the team’s first big win of the season. I’ve channeled my inner Nostradamus and come out with three predictions for Sunday’s contest.
Michael Turner will rush for over 100 yards
If this prediction comes true it doesn’t bold well for the Panthers. But without Terrell McClain and Sione Fua in the lineup, an already thin defensive line gets even thinner. The last time these two teams met Turner carried 27 times for 139 yards and scampered into the end zone twice.
Turner has had great success against Carolina in the past and should again as this matchup is more than favorable. The Panthers did a great job of containing LeGarrette Blount last week, but that was without the worry of a quarterback beating them through the air. Matt Ryan is more than capable of beating a team with his arm and the Panthers will have to be on their heels to ensure that Roddy White or Julio Jones don’t get open down field.
Stopping Turner will be the key to a Panthers win. It’s just hard to see them doing it with the success that he has shown against this team in the past and how depleted the defensive line is. I expect Charles Johnson to be playing on the inside a lot on Sunday, but that takes away his ability to rush the passer from the outside.
Bottom line: Turner is going to get his yards on the ground. The most effective way the Panthers can stop the Falcons’ running game will be Cam Newton and the offense. Keeping Turner off the field is the only way Carolina will keep him from breaking the 100-yard mark.
Newton will deliver a signature performance
When anyone talks about the Panthers these days Newton’s name is brought up. The man is a phenom who is changing the way we look at quarterbacks. What is so special about Newton is the progress he continually shows each week. After throwing four interceptions against Detroit three games ago he hasn’t turned the ball over. Being smart with the football is something that the young quarterback is still learning, but he has shown signs of improvement as the season has gone on.
The Falcons will be without their top corner in Brent Grimes, which opens the door for Steve Smith to have a big game. More importantly I think it will help loosen up Newton when he looks towards Smith’s way.
You may think that last week was Newton’s signature performance of the season when he ran for three touchdowns–breaking Steve Grogan’s record–and threw for another against the Bucs, but it was against a reeling team that the Panthers should have beat. This week comes a much tougher test for Newton and Co. and I think he will rise to the occasion.
Look for him to creep near the 300-yard mark against a Falcons secondary that is in the bottom half of the league against the pass.
The Panthers win
Atlanta is coming off a game in which its offense was completely out of sync. The Texans defense is much better than the Panthers, but a key factor to this game is that it will be played out doors in Carolina. For some reason Ryan struggles outside and on the road. I believe this trend will continue against a Panthers defense that is showing signs of improvement.
But the biggest reason I feel that Carolina will come out with the W is the offense. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been getting more opportunities the past few weeks and have come up big for the Panthers. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski would be wise to not forget about his running backs on Sunday.
Prediction: Panthers 30, Falcons 27