How might Atlanta fare in only their 2nd division game in the first 8 weeks of the season?
While the Saints and Buccaneers fought for playoff positioning within the division, the Panthers and Falcons competed to be the worst in the division. Both teams were dismal with Atlanta finishing at the bottom with 4 wins and Carolina grabbing just one more with 5. Yet, both teams seem to be on the rise going into 2021 though big questions remain at the QB position for our foes up I-85. Here’s how we think this one might play out.
Falcons 28 – Panthers 24
While Carolina has made some nice investments in their defense, it was still a unit that ranked just 24th in DVOA last year. That should improve in 2021, but the bigger question is what their offense will look like. This was an average unit in 2020 under Teddy Bridgewater. There is definitely some talent but is Sam Darnold going to be a significant upgrade over Teddy? I understand those who contend Darnold had no supporting talent and a toxic coach over him in New York. Those are valid points. I just don’t think he’s going to suddenly become a top tier starter, even if I do think he’ll look far different than he did with the Jets. The Falcons will be at home for this one and with 6 prior games under their belt, I believe the offense will be hitting it’s stride. Carolina should put up some points, but the nod goes to the home team in this one. – David Walker
Falcons 31 – Panthers 15
I can’t help but to feel absolutely nothing about the Panthers. Their coaches seem competent but in an off-season where they were looking for their quarterback of the future and face of the franchise they came away with Sam Darnold. Can he be better than he was for the Jets? Absolutely. Will he be much better than Teddy Bridgewater? I doubt it. The Falcons have a lot of question marks but the Panthers have so few answers that Atlanta should be able to beat the brakes off of Carolina. – Matt Chambers
Falcons 30 – Panthers 17
I like what the Panthers did in the draft this year (well, outside of passing on Justin Fields, but Jaycee Horn is an excellent consolation prize). I just can’t see them as a team that has made the necessary additions on the offensive side of the ball to be much of an issue, despite their intriguing defense. Christian McCaffrey will have to be locked on to but Atlanta has the speed at linebacker to somewhat contain him and force Sam Darnold to beat them through the air. I think that’s a definite recipe for success from Atlanta’s perspective. And while I think Horn will be a good corner, I don’t think he nor anyone in Carolina’s secondary can keep up with Calvin Ridley. – Adnan Ikic
Falcons 28 – Panthers 21
Carolina’s a team I’ll be eager to get a bead on in the early going. They’ve put together a pair of impressive draft classes, have a collection of talent on defense that suggests they can be greatly improved this year and still have one of the league’s best backs and an underrated top receiver. That said, on the road against Atlanta with Sam Darnold under center is going to be a tough draw for them, and they’re going to need that intriguing defense to shut down the Falcons passing game to win this one. I’m not quite convinced they can do that just yet. – Dave Choate