I’m hunkering down preparing for the worst of Florence, but it feels like Falcons fans are waiting on another potential storm. The team went from the healthiest in the league to losing Keanu Neal for the year, Deion Jones for at least eight games, and Devonta Freeman for at least one game. Not to mention hurricane Sarkisian. Does everything get back on track this weekend? I doubt it, but I think they pull off a strong but low scoring win over the Panthers.
Falcons 27 Panthers 19
The number of injuries on for both teams will shake things up a little bit. While Carolina is missing top offensive linemen and their best weapon in the passing game, Atlanta is missing their leaders on defense and top running back. The Falcons defense has enough to still make plays against a Carolina offense that has little weaponry outside of Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton. This game will be on two Atlanta groupings, the Falcons offense and the Falcons defensive line. Look for the Falcons to get Calvin Ridley involved with the expected attention given to Julio Jones and the young bulls on the Falcons defensive line showing there speed against a wounded bunch of protectors.
Falcons 28 - Panthers 21
Despite the last week of morose news, the Atlanta Falcons are still quite a good football team. We have no idea what this offense is really capable of after Week 1 saw them go up against Atlanta’s Kryptonite (literally -- the Eagles uniforms are actually green), so expect them to look much sharper against a team we’ve seen them score on before at home. The defense also draws the benefit of going up against an ailing Panthers offense down three offensive lineman and a key receiver. Losing Keanu Neal for the year and Deion Jones for half of it stinks like crazy, but this week should serve as a reminder that the team is still one of the most talented (and, yes, well-coached) in the NFL. Atlanta gets its first win of 2018 and the worry warts begin to fade out just a bit.
Falcons 24 - Panthers 13
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Falcons respond to a rough Week 1 road performance. To top things off, Atlanta has to figure out how to overcome the losses of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones on defense, and the absence of Devonta Freeman on offense. I’m confident in Damontae Kazee and Tevin Coleman stepping into bigger roles, but I still need to see more from Duke Riley. If he can continue his solid play from Week 1, the Falcons’ defense should be OK. Meanwhile, the Panthers have also been hit hard with injuries. This is close to a must-win game for Atlanta, and I’m confident they’ll get back on track in Week 2.
Falcons 23 - Panthers 17
Ugly. Yet compared to the Eagles game, a thing of beauty.
The Falcons will be missing three of their better starters in this one, but the Panthers are out several of their high-end players as well. With the Falcons at home, matching up pretty well against Carolina, and traditionally doing plenty to stop Cam Newton and the passing game, I think they can win this one. If they do, it’ll be beautiful, no matter how they get there.
Falcons 24 - Panthers 13
I look at this game as a must-win for the Falcons, if they hope to remain in the hunt by the time Deion Jones is eligible to come off the IR. Atlanta is obviously hurting, having lost Keanu Neal and Jones in the long term, but the Panthers are maybe the one team that’s had even worse injury luck thus far. They’re down three of their five starting offensive lineman, including their best lineman in Trai Turner who entered concussion protocol earlier this week, and will be without star tight end Greg Olsen. The Falcons’ defense line should be living in Carolina’s backfield all afternoon, and they should make life miserable for Cam Newton and company. I also expect a bounceback game from Matt Ryan and the offense, against a vulnerable Panthers secondary.
Falcons 23 - Panthers 20
In a battle of two already significantly banged-up teams, it will be fascinating to see which team can fully capitalize on the loss of talent at key positions. Will Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey have their way against a defense without Deion Jones or Keanu Neal? Can the Falcons’ pass rush come to life against an offensive line without Trai Turner and Daryl Williams?
It’s a tricky matchup for the Falcons based on their offensive instability and losing two incredibly valuable players on their defense. Matt Ryan will need to prove last Thursday was an anomaly, as questions about his ball placement and velocity were raised. This is going to be a classic NFC South battle that will come down to a few plays. The Falcons’ pass rush does enough with their trio of young stars (Grady Jarrett, Vic Beasley, Takkarist McKinley) forcing Newton into committing multiple turnovers.