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Falcons - Panthers final score predictions

Our staff weighs in on whether they think Atlanta will win the first game of the season.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Are the Falcons set to return to winning ways? Or will they be tripped up by a plucky divisional opponent? In the past five openers Atlanta hasn’t been able to get a win, but this is a very different Falcons team.

That’s certainly one of the central questions of Week 1 for Atlanta, so we decided to tackle it in the first of many weekly rounds of predictions. You’ll find ours below, and we welcome yours in the comments.

Falcons 27, Panthers 17

Old habits sometimes die hard, and the urge to predict a close game given the last two years of Falcons football is a strong one. After all, we haven’t seen these two teams in action yet, and Atlanta has gotten off to frustratingly slow starts each of the past two seasons.

But to hell with all of that. The Falcons are a far better team than they were a year ago, featuring an offense bristling with weapons and a young quarterback who should be capable of taking advantage of that. They’ve upgraded the talent on defense significantly, too, and the Panthers are a team set to have some growing pains thanks to a rookie quarterback, new coaching staff, a few glaring lineup holes, and injuries decimating their receiving corps. There’s daylight between these two teams, and a Falcons squad that plays to their strengths and plays crisp football ought to be able to take advantage of that.

There are always a million ways a Falcons game can go sideways. It’s time to start expecting, given the investment in talent and hard lessons learned over the past two seasons, that things will go right. Atlanta shakes off a little rust early on and gets the job done handily at home. —Dave Choate

Falcons 24, Panthers 13

Well, Week 1 is finally here. I can’t wait to see the Falcons in all black head out onto that field as my hopes of a good season remain alive for the time being. Once that ball is kicked however, anything goes. I think in this matchup, the Falcons have to be slight favorites. Obviously I have some biases as a fan, but also it just makes sense. They’re the home team, they’ve improved on both sides of the ball, and the Panthers are starting a rookie quarterback who will likely be without a few of his pass catchers.

You could argue that the Panthers will lean on the run game, but Miles Sanders does not scare me. I could eat my words later this weekend, but I feel pretty confident in a Falcons victory on Sunday. Also, Bijan Robinson is going to have a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown. Book it. — Evan Birchfield

Falcons 24, Panthers 17

There’s a lot riding on this game for the Falcons. Sure, it’s just Week 1, but it’s a divisional opponent that the team should be able to beat at home. Win, and you break a five-year streak of season-opening losses and perennial losing records. Lose, and return to the darkness of “same old Falcons”. This game is the perfect opportunity to prove that this is a different Atlanta team with a different level of expectations.

The Panthers are hurting at wide receiver, their offensive line has looked shaky at best, and although Bryce Young is extremely talented, he’s also a rookie making his first NFL start on the road. Atlanta must put the pressure on and find a way to win this game, one way or another. I don’t expect it to be pretty, but I do expect the Falcons to come away with the win when the dust clears. —Kevin Knight

Falcons 24, Panthers 13

The first game of the year can frequently be an odd one. Look no farther back then Thursday night’s Lions win over the Chiefs. You can get some weird results before teams get things firing on all cylinders. I think this will be a matchup of two teams stumbling out of the gate. The Falcons limited starter snaps through preseason and the Panthers starting a rookie quarterback with no pass catchers. It is fair to say that both teams will likely look rough. The good news for Atlanta is that despite all its question marks (young quarterback, new defensive scheme, rookie guard, WR2 concerns) the Panthers have more (the whole team outside of Brian Burns, who is also at risk of sitting out).

Preparing for some ugly football, I expect Atlanta to lean on its run game early and often. I’d love to see a passing game starting to shine through but a win should suffice. A stout run game should be enough to bowl over the Panthers. Falcons start off with a win but I bet we don’t feel great about how the team looked. —Matt Chambers