G’day Falcons fans, and welcome back to the contribution I, in collaboration with fellow Aussie Falcons fan dunlagh, hope to be making to the Falcoholic. I’ll analyse the best case scenario for the Falcons, with what are, in my opinion, a few keys to victory, while dunlagh will play devil’s advocate and look at how the game will turn out if we play at our true worst.
Hey guys, sorry for the late post again, I’ll definitely try and have this up earlier next week. Anyway, here we are; the first of two clashes with the Panthers. They’re not playing good football at all this year, and if they knew what was good for them would be playing for the 1st overall pick for the next four games, but the Carolina team I know is a proud unit of guys and always prove to be a tough matchup for Atlanta regardless of each team’s record. With that being said, this should be an easy win for the Panthers, although I really am moer worried about this game than the Cardinals, Rams and (evidently foolishly) second Bucs games. Ice has yet to beat Carolina on the road, so I firmly hope that we can resurrect that this week with a solid win. Despite their horrendous 1-11 record this year, the Panthers definitely have talent (especially at running back and with some opportunistic DBs) so this week, the best case for the Falcons comes if we shut down the Panther’s run, Ryan cuts loose and we run up a score.
Shut down the Panther’s run: Carolina ranks 21st in the league in rush yards, averaging a shade over 100 yards per game Through Ryan’s rookie year we leaned heavily on the run to protect young Ice, and it seems as though Carolina are taking that route also (although they have been a run first team for at least 3 years now). Regardless, the Panthers are not getting it together on the ground as much as in previous years, evident in their total of 4 rushing touchdowns and changed up starting lineup at RB (injuries really took their toll on Carolina to be fair). If the Panthers run well, which Jonathan Stewart has proven he can against us (Check yourself Stewart, Lofton will teach you for going 50 yards for the win…), our defense faces a much bigger challenge than if they are one dimensional. In the carousel of quarterbacks, Jimmy Clausen will start for the Panthers this week and, although he hasn’t ever had a two INT game, putting the game on his shoulders will really encourage a few errant throws and hopefully a big game of picks for Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes. If Carolina can only get 14 or 15 carries off throughout the game, or even in the part of the game when the Panthers are still a threat, then we can force the game onto Clausen’s rookie shoulders, which will really start the ball rolling for what is hopefully a game when we can have it put away by at least three quarter time (I hate to think of what the power rankings will say if the Falcons have to squeak out a close one against the Panthers).
Ryan cuts loose: Matt Ryan had his worst games of the season last week on paper, and watching it it was pretty evident that Ryan was jumpy and not comfortable at times. Despite heavy criticism of all facets of their game, the Panthers actually match up against the pass extremely well (207 yards per game, 8th in the league, with 15 interceptions). However, Captain Munnerlyn is hurt this week, as with Chris Gamble, and if the backup linebackers of the Panthers are too focused on Turner cutting loose (which he should against the 27th ranked rush defense of Carolina) then expect Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas to have season days. This week I feel the Panthers pass D will be at its weakest, which hopefully Ryan exploits in a bounce back game. Maybe this is the week Ryan and HD finally hit on the deep ball they’ve tried (and missed) at least 7 times throughout the year. A statistically beastly game for Ice is just what the Falcons need at the moment, even if it’s just to make for good watching for all of us.
Run up a score: I really am not trying to sell the Panthers short, and I believe they’ve been made the scapegoats of the season at times. They’re not nearly as bad as their record shows, and if one or two plays (John Kasay’s missed FG as time expired in Cleveland) had have gone their way then they could be looking at 2 or 3 more wins. However, if the Falcons are to be a Superbowl contender, this should be the sort of game that finishes up with 30+ point victory for our boys from the Dome. Stat padding for Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Roddy White, John Abraham, our DBs isn’t the worst thing that could happen this week, and I really hope we see a comfortable victory for two reasons: 1) to dispel the theory of us struggling to put teams away and 2) to save me from having a coronary before I reach 25.
A win this week would really help the Falcons on the quest to home field advantage and the number 1 seed, and puts us that much closer to a week off in the playoffs. I don’t believe we should take the Panthers lightly, as they always put on a good show against us (especially you Steve Smith), but getting a W and getting out of Charlotte healthy will put the Falcons right where they want to be headed into the final 3 games of the year. If we can run up a score and put backups in, all the better. If not, let’s hope there’s no need for last minute heroics to get it done for once. Again, sorry about the late post (starting a bit of an unwanted trend here, next week’s will definitely be out days earlier), and be sure to check out the worst case scenario post here. Go Falcons!