The Atlanta Falcons could lose this game to the Carolina Panthers, yes, but that possibility appears increasingly remote thanks to this team being utterly rudderless and awful against a parade of teams over the last month-plus. Take Cam Newton out of the equation and things are even worse.
And you’ll have to take Newton out. Ron Rivera and his staff might be in big trouble and they know it, but they can’t continue to trot the franchise out there with his shoulder hanging from a frayed thread. That means the Panthers will be starting Taylor Heinicke, a 25-year-old Atlanta native with 46 passing yards this year. I have literally no idea what to expect, except for a drastically different performance than Carolina would get from Newton.
Sources: #Panthers are expected to sit Cam Newton (shoulder) now that they are out of the playoff race and Taylor Heinicke is believed to be starting Sunday vs. the #Falcons. A move that makes a lot of sense. … Cam is not practicing today.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 19, 2018
Will the Falcons be able to beat Heinicke? Considering how dominant the Carolina defense was against the Saints, and considering they were an awful Newton performance away from winning that game, I think it’s entirely possible they don’t. But we’re really past the point where this game matters for either team, so expect some surprisingly spirited football now that the pressure’s off. If Heinicke can just manage to avoid any bad mistakes, it’s very possible the Falcons will get back to their losing way and juice the ol’ draft pick machine.
What are your expectations for Heinicke and the Panthers this Sunday?