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Falcons defense vs. Panthers offense: Can Atlanta stop Cam?

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Can the defense build off a promising performance last week when they travel to Carolina? We aren’t sure. Maybe. Yes. PLUS A BONUS VIDEO THIS WEEK!

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons defense has been a little confusing throughout the first half of the season, but they appeared to turn a corner last week with their best performance of the year thus far. Sunday, they travel to take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers following an eventful week for Ron Rivera and them boys.

The Panthers traded their biggest threat in the receiving game, Kelvin Benjamin, for a pair of old sneakers and a lightly used Buffalo Bills-themed-Tervis Tumbler. With a big target missing from their offense, it would stand to reason that the Falcons defense should have a good chance to build off a solid week last week.

Let’s take a look.

In the trenches

Grady Jarrett had a tremendous game last week with four tackles, three assisted, and half a sack—plus an interception on a spike at the end of the game. We saw glimpses of the Falcons defensive line from last year: twists, stunts, and an overall aggressive gameplan gave Josh McCown trouble throughout the day.

This week against the Panthers, Atlanta will be looking to have similar success. While Carolina has some stellar linemen (*cough* Matt Kalil *cough*), if the Falcons can limit Cam Netwon’s running ability, they should be able to be more aggressive in their pass rush.

It seems like the Panthers offense is more dependent than they have been on Cam making plays in the running game as he is the team leader in rushing touchdowns and second in rushing yards behind Jonathan Stewart. Expect that to increase since the passing game will take a step back without Benjamin.

The Falcons should be able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage this week, with Jarrett and Dontari Poe having solid days in the running game. Meanwhile, Vic Beasley, Adrian Clayborn and Takk McKinley will have a lot of opportunity versus Kalil and Daryl Williams—though Williams has had a pretty solid season so far. It won’t be a clear cut advantage, but the Falcons win those battles more often than they lose on Sunday.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

Skill positions

Without Benjamin, the Carolina wide receiving corps is made up of Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard and Curtis Samuel, a group that is helped out by Ed Dixon at tightend and a mix of Jonathan Steward and Christiann McCaffrey out of the backfield.

That group is not very scary on paper but that has never stopped the Falcons from allowing a team to make big plays when they have no business doing so. Every matchup on the outside would appear to be favorable for Atlanta: Desmond Trufant on Funchess, Robert Alford on Samuel, Brian Poole on Shepard, and Keanu Neal/DeVondre Campbell/Deion Jones on Dixon, Stewart, and McCaffrey.

The Panthers have the 19th ranked passing offense in the league (yards per game) and 20 percent of their receiving touchdowns now play in Buffalo, so Atlanta should be able to play man-to-man, be aggressive on the edge, and hopefully cause a turnover or two.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

Wrap up

I’m not sold on this defense at all. They are still inconsistent when it comes to tackling and they still have trouble with penalties and getting off the field on third down. They have the potential to be pretty solid and last week was a good sign that maybe they are heading in the right direction.

The Falcons have the advantage in the matchups this week, but that by no means translates to an easy game.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

BONUS

I hope you all enjoy this excellent video from Panthers superfan Ked Woodley. I know DW sure did.