Panthers vs. Falcons: Prediction and best bets for Week 8 clash

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Chris Reed
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Chris Reed /
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Carolina Panthers
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports) Mike Davis /

Carolina Panthers vs. Falcons: What to expect

Much will depend on whether star running back Christian McCaffrey is able to make a return. The All-Pro has been designated to come off the reserve/injured list after recovering from a high ankle sprain. But according to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Carolina Panthers won’t risk their star player.

Having McCaffrey on the field in any capacity would have further swing momentum in Carolina’s favor. While it is important that the Panthers keep a balanced offense, it would be hard to argue that the former first-round pick wasn’t missed considerably during their two recent losses.

This is a quick turnaround for the NFC South rivals from their Week 5 game that went the way of Carolina in impressive fashion. The Falcons should have stud wide receiver Julio Jones back in their lineup, although his status is still in question thanks to a hip injury.

Jones has the potential to be a difference-maker given the Panthers’ lack of depth at cornerback, so expect quarterback Matt Ryan to test this area of the field heavily in the early going.

Carolina should also see plenty of running back Todd Gurley, who gained considerable yardage in their first meeting. The former first-round pick will also be on a mission to correct his mental error that cost his team the game in Week 7.

For the Panthers, they need to continue getting the ball into the hands of their playmakers efficiently even if McCaffrey does make it back and couple this with enough improvements on defense that can get them over the line.