If you watched Monday Night Football, you know exactly why Mike Nolan is doing cartwheels through Flowery Branch right now. The Panthers offensive line is breathtakingly putrid, and the Falcons get a second straight week of a subpar line as the team attempts to rapidly improve its defense for the second half.
The Falcons aren't going to do what the Eagles did against Cam Newton—nine sacks, each of them more painful than the last—but they don't need to wreak havoc in the Panthers backfield. They just need to apply real pressure on Newton to keep him from getting comfortable in the pocket, especially because his receiving corps is Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen and a bunch of extras who didn't get roles in The Longest Yard because of their lack of football acumen. This team got four sacks a week ago against an arguably better line in Tampa Bay, so this is certainly doable.
Having a healthier Jonathan Massaquoi will help the effort, and if Kroy Biermann and Osi Umenyiora can build on their combined three-sack performance in any way, the Falcons are in business. As reader Harrisen Schneider suggested yesterday, the Falcons may also want to use Paul Worrilow creatively, given that Connor Barwin was hugely successful against the Panthers' offensive line and Worrilow has had a handful of impressive speed rushes over the course of the season. I definitely think it's worth dialing up some creative blitz packages for this one, because I'm not sure the Panthers are capable of stopping much of anything.
Newton can still be dangerous, however. A quality game from Robert Alford and having a safety cover Olsen will take away some of his weapons, but that still means the Falcons will need to contain arguably the league's most dangerous and powerful running quarterback.
Your expectations for the pass rush?