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Falcons defense vs. Panthers offense: who has the edge?

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Both teams are beat up and have some unknowns this week. Can Atlanta overcome their attrition to stop the Panthers?

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Welp. Week 12 is here. Wait, it’s only Week 2? And the Falcons are this beat up? Thanks a lot, pundit who shall not be named.

Week 2. Right. The Falcons and the Panthers meet in Atlanta in what could be a huge match up for both teams. If the Panthers win, they could take an early lead in the division and put themselves in a great spot for the season. More importantly, a Falcons loss would send them to 0-2 and set them back in a major way in their quest to win the division and make the postseason.

For a look at the Falcons offensive outlook going into this game, check out DW’s breakdown here. Right now, lets check out the matchup for the Falcons defense as they take on Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey.

In the trenches

If the Falcons have a chance to take advantage of a mismatch at any point in this game, it is on the line of scrimmage. At this point, it looks like the Panthers will be playing without three of their original five starting offensive lineman. Atlanta is beaten up and definitely missing some pieces, but they are full strength on the line.

Carolina appears to be preparing with a starting offensive line that features Chris Clark, Greg Van Roten, Ryan Kalil, Amini Silatolu, and Taylor Moton. Clark was signed this Wednesday, while Moton and Silatolu are playing in a different role than they did last week.

Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, and the rest of the Falcons defensive line should be able to move the pocket and limit any big holes for McCaffrey. If they can’t, Atlanta is going to have a long day.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons

Skill positions

Now we start to see the Falcons injuries start to catch up with them. The impact will be softened by the unfortunate injury of Greg Olsen, but Carolina will still have chances to hurt Atlanta in the middle of the field and down the seems.

Duke Riley starting for the first time at the middle linebacker spot, plus Damontae Kazee’s first NFL start at Keanu Neal’s safety spot spell trouble for Atlanta in a divisional game. The Panthers will likely attack the edge and test the new guys’ ability to react quickly and read the defense—not the biggest strength for a certain linebacker thus far.

Carolina’s receivers don’t necessarily scare anyone but they have potential to make a play or two—especially big-bodied target, Devin Funchess. Cam Newton and the Panthers showed some versatility against the Cowboys last week and are familiar with the Falcons scheme, but Atlanta also holds advantages on the outside.

This is a tight matchup due to the unknown with Kazee and Riley, but Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford, Brian Poole, and Ricardo Allen can help limit the damage by tackling well and making sure the new guys are in the right position.

Advantage: Push

Overall

Football is a game that is won and lost along the line of scrimmage. You’ve got to win in the trenches. Run the ball and stop the run. All of those cliches come to mind when thinking over this matchup.

This week, the Falcons should have a significant edge when it comes to the Atlanta defensive line versus the Panthers banged up offensive line. Plus, the loss of Olsen could end up meaning a lot more than many think it will. Cam loves his tight end and will need someone to pick up the slack once again.

If Atlanta can take advantage of that mismatch down low, they should give the offense a good chance to win the game on Sunday. I’m hopeful that they will make it happen.

Advantage: Atlanta Falcons