4 keys to victory for the Carolina Panthers at Falcons in Week 1

The long wait for Carolina Panthers football is nearly over.

Miles Sanders
Miles Sanders / Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
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Carolina Panthers must rely on the running game, not Bryce Young

This is far from a knock on the Carolina Panthers new QB1. It is simply the reality of this Week 1 matchup - they must put the ball in the hands of Miles Sanders and Chuba Hubbard early and often.

The Atlanta Falcons defense is a complex puzzle. They have an incredibly strong defensive line with veterans Calais Campbell, David Oneymata, and Grady Jarrett. Those three will not make a huge impact in space, they work primarily up the middle. In the secondary, they carry A.J. Terrell and Jessie Bates III but lack serious depth elsewhere.

What I believe may be the Panthers' most effective weapon against this defense is utilizing Sanders and Hubbard out in space, on stretch and toss runs, to avoid the Falcons' big three in the trenches. Atlanta's defensive line trio could cause fits for Bryce Young in the passing game, especially with the interior offensive line weakness.

If Frank Reich can play his cards right and consistently put the ball in the hands of his running backs, he may just open up a big play-action shot downfield from Young to Jonathan Mingo late in the game. That is where the Heisman Trophy winner should operate in his first game - not carrying the offense on his back without D.J. Chark and potentially Adam Thielen at his disposal.