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The Falcons open their 2012 NFC South season with the Carolina Panthers. They will win the game with the Panthers if....
...they stop the Panthers' running game. Let's face it, the Panthers air attack is without question weaker than at least two of the three teams we've faced already. Even with the emergence of Brandon LaFell, he is still not the quality of receiver that Peyton or Philip Rivers have at their disposal (and maybe even Matt Cassel, too!)
The Falcons should expect a heavy dose of the run early and often to set up a passing game from Cam and the Panthers. The wild card in this game is, of course, the play of Cam Newton. I think we've faced enough good quarterback play this year to not be surprised at anything Cam could throw at us, but Cam's ability to scramble makes this a task that is much taller than it would otherwise be.
This starts with playing fundamentally sound football. Despite the Falcons' ability and desire to swarm 11 (or maybe like 15, from the looks of some plays) guys to the football, they do tend to miss on some easy tackles. Cam's a big player, similar in size to Ben Roethlisberger, and as we all know, Ben is nearly impossible to tackle.
If the first man to Cam doesn't take him down or severely impede his progress, we could be in for a long game.
Fill in the blank: The Atlanta Falcons will win, if _______
I look forward to seeing some of your responses!
You're also not allowed to say, "if the Falcons score more points than the Panthers." because that's my line!