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Predicting our way through the 2022 Falcons schedule: Week 8 means Panthers

Atlanta finally gets a break after a rough opening stretch, facing their weakest divisional rival.

Atlanta Falcons vs Cincinnati Bengals Set Number: X162193 TK1

The Falcons will need a break after their first seven games of the season, whether they’re a surprising contender or a smoldering wreck after that stretch is over. They won’t get a bye week, but they will get the Panthers, which is almost as good.

That may seem a bit cruel or might carry a tinge of swagger you don’t feel is justified, given the quality of this Falcons roster, but the reality is that Atlanta has been beating up on the Panthers for a long time now. From 2000 to the present day, they’re 29-15 against their “rivals,” with a 2-2 split in the 2020s caused by this team’s recent ineptitude.

Given that Carolina isn’t in great shape themselves, this feels like a winnable game for Atlanta. Do we think they’ll pull it off? Check out our predictions below, and then deliver yours.

Falcons 31 - Panthers 20

For the first time since Week 2 in our prediction series, I can put a confident flag down on a win. There’s always the chance this will come back to bite me, but it’s the Panthers, so it doesn’t seem likely.

That silver, black and teal train wreck of a team may have hired a solid general manager too late to salvage the weird Matt Rhule era or their ultra-shady owner, because this is a team with some talented pieces and no clear path to relevance. Adding Baker Mayfield probably helps, but I don’t think this is going to be a great team in 2022, and I do think the Falcons will handle them after being forged in the fires of the first seven weeks. That’d make 3-5 for Atlanta, per my predictions. —Dave Choate

Falcons 20 - Panthers 13

Circle each Panthers match-up on the 2022 schedule. The Panthers have been mismanaged for years and appear heading into a lame duck season for Matt Rhule. Who is the quarterback? Probably Baker Mayfield, but Sam Darnold will still be there thanks to the Panthers exercising his fifth-year option. Christian McCaffrey has been injured for so long I had to Google his name to ensure I was spelling it correctly. The defense is OK. The coaching is lackluster and has a very real chance of being partially relieved of its duties.

Can the Panthers bounce back with Mayfield? Maybe, but the betting odds say no. I think the Panthers offer Atlanta the opportunity to play the type of football the Falcons can actually play. Call this a decisive yet boring win. — Matt Chambers

Falcons 24 - Panthers 17

The toughest stretch on the schedule finally comes to an end with a favorable matchup against the division-rival Panthers. Carolina is always a weird team because, on paper, they have the pieces to be an excellent defense and have the offensive weaponry—if Christian McCaffrey stays healthy, at least—to at least be serviceable on that side of the ball. The issue comes from the coaching and the management, and by extension, the quarterback situation.

This is a Panthers team embroiled in a pointless (and most likely doomed) Matt Rhule season. Every move they’ve made at QB has seemingly invalidated the previous one. First they were all-in on Sam Darnold, then it was “we love Matt Corral”, and finally a desperate trade for Baker Mayfield. The truth is that none of those QBs change anything, although Mayfield is clearly an upgrade over Darnold. Carolina ran their up-and-coming OC Joe Brady—who recently received head coaching interviews—out of town and replaced him with Ben McAdoo. This team cannot overcome the mismanagement of Rhule, and that’s why the Falcons should be favored to defeat the Panthers in Week 8. —Kevin Knight