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What to know for the Falcons - Panthers matchup in Week 14

Two struggling teams with an offseason of changes approaching.

NFL: NOV 17 Falcons at Panthers Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Falcons and Panthers were the class for the NFC South for a while, with the Panthers winning three straight division titles from 2013-2015 and the Falcons bookending those years with an NFC Conference Championship berth and a Super Bowl ticket. Those days are sadly long, long gone.

When these two teams meet this week, there’ll be little to play for. Atlanta’s 3-9 and likely on the cusp of clearing out its front office and coaching staff. Carolina’s 5-7 and fading fast, falling behind the Buccaneers and looking like they’re ready to finally cut Riverboat Ron loose from his mooring. There’s no easy way to feel great about either team’s immediate future, and the outcome of this one will do little more than make one fanbase feel better than the other for a day or two.

That said, they’re still going to play this game, and there are still facets of this matchup that are worth commenting upon. Onward and upward.

Side-by-Side Ranks

The Panthers have lost three straight and the Falcons have dropped two in a row, so boy is this matchup not at all depressing!

Falcons - Panthers Matchup

Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Team Record Points For Yardage For Passing Yards Rushing Yards Points Against Yardage Against Passing Yards Against Rushing Yardage Against Turnovers Created Turnovers Allowed
Falcons 3-9 18 11 2 30 27 23 26 17 30 25
Panthers 5-7 13 21 21 12 26 22 14 29 6 27

These two teams stink. The Falcons are putting up a ton of empty calorie passing yards and boast a halfway decent run defense, and while it doesn’t show up in the rankings, their pass defense has been making real strides in recent weeks. They have no ground game, a shaky pass rush, hardly any turnovers, and one of the league’s most laughably bad red zone offenses, considering the talent on hand. You don’t get to 3-9 by being anything other than bad, and aside from those two big wins against the Saints and Panthers, they’ve been mediocre at best all year.

The Panthers were looking pretty good earlier in the year, but that’s all changed. They still run the ball effectively, create turnovers, and rush the passer well, but everything else has slowly gone to hell. Kyle Allen has gone from Carolina’s next quarterback to the backup-caliber player everyone knew he was, the run defense is awful, and overall this looks like a team ready for major changes.

The Falcons don’t match up super well against Carolina’s weaknesses—they can’t run extremely well against this porous Panthers front seven, for example—but they beat them handily last time and can do so again. Allen’s frankly embarrassing performance against Washington last weekend gives the Panthers little chance of righting the ship, and he was godawful against Atlanta last time out, too.

What’s likely to change this offseason for Carolina?

So much. Unlike the Falcons, the Panthers don’t appear to believe they have a franchise quarterback any longer. They mishandled Cam Newton’s injuries and the team spent so much time pumping up Kyle Allen that they’ve surely alienated their former start QB, and there was near-open talk of trading him throughout the year. With Allen stinking, Newton looking like an attractive trade chip if he’s healthy, and Will Grier a virtual unknown, the Panthers may very well be starting over at quarterback in 2020.

That makes sense, because a new head coach might want a new one, and a new head coach is probably on his way. Rivera has had a very Dan Quinn-like career in Carolina but on a longer timeframe, with a single Super Bowl and just three winning seasons in nine years with the Panthers. He’s also got a 3-4 playoff record, and is living proof that patience doesn’t always work out for franchises. It’s difficult to imagine him surviving this season, meaning a new staff is also on the way.

From there, who knows? The Panthers have one of the best backs in football, some young pieces along the offensive line, a quality group of receivers, and some interesting players on defense. There’s enough here to struggle through a year or two while you retool and then come out on the other side as a contender again, assuming they nail their quarterback decision.

What should you know about this game?

There’s a fair chance the Falcons win it going away. I feel that strongly that the Panthers are a lost team, and that Kyle Allen under center gives Atlanta a real shot at winning one at home for a change.

This being an NFC South matchup—and this being one of the worst Falcons teams we’ve seen in a little while—Carolina shouldn’t be counted out entirely. If our beloved-but-ugly birds can do a reasonable job of bottling Christian McCaffrey and get their annoyingly empty passing attack back on track with Julio Jones, Austin Hooper, and Devonta Freeman back on the field, though, this could be their last win of the season. Hooray.