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In the first three games of the season the Carolina Panthers showed their offense is viable to be dismantled by an elite defense. Well Cam Newton can push those nightmares of Von Miller and Everson Griffin away as the Panthers look to rebound against a defensively anemic Falcons team. The Falcons sit on the tip top of the NFC South at 2-1 after a commanding 45-32 win over the New Orleans Saints and here are 3 things to look for in this week’s game.
1) Is there even a Falcons Defense?
The Panthers face perhaps the NFL’s worst defense this week against the Atlanta Falcons. Last year the Falcons had 19 sacks which was the worst in the league so far this season the Falcons only have 2 total sacks.
The lack of a pass rush also impacts the Falcons inefficiency to get off of the field on 3rd downs. In the off season the Falcons signed sack master Dwight Freeney in hopes he could help them get off the field on 3rd downs but so far the Falcons convert 66 percent of the time. On the other hand 3rd down efficiency remains one of the shining points for the Panthers this season. The Panthers offense converts 47.8 percent of their third down plays, the 7th best percentage in the league.
If you still aren’t convinced at the easy match up vs the Falcons look at how they rank among the league in these defensive categories:
30th in Total Yards Per Game
28th in Total Points Per Game
31st in Sacks
26th in Rushing Yards Per Attempt
29th in Pass Yards Net Per Game
2) Musical Chairs on Panthers Offensive Line
The above point does come with a caveat. Before salivating over the match up against this porous Falcons defense, Panthers fans need to examine gaping holes in the Panthers offensive line. On Friday, Ron Rivera told reporters that startling left tackle Michael Oher will miss the game because of concussion like symptoms. It is unclear when the hit to the head occurred but the loss of Oher creates a cascade of positional rotations on the offensive line.
To replace Oher the Panther could move right tackle Mike Remmers to the left side or give rookie Donald Hawkins his first taste of NFL play, leaving a big question mark that the Falcons could turn into an advantage. Any rotations along the offense line will receive major scrutiny if the anemic Falcons defense can slow the 7th ranked overall offense of the Panthers.
If the Falcons can put Cam Newton on the ground consistently, Panthers fans have reason to worry about the playoff potential of this team.
3) Greg Olsen should lick his lips
One major potential mismatch in this game will center around Greg Oslen. The Falcons are atrocious when it comes to covering opponent’s tight ends. On Monday night the Falcons could notcontain Saints tight end Coby Fleener, who caught 7 of 11 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. In the season opener against the Buccaneers the Falcons gave up 60 yards and a touchdown to the Buc’s tight end duo.
The inability to cover tight ends was a point of focus for the Falcons this off season. The Falcons selected Deion Jones out of LSU with their 2nd round pick in the 2016 draft and De’vondre Campbell from Minnesota with their 4th round pick in order to improve pass coverage in their linebacker corp. While there has been improvement from last year, the rookies cannot seem to cure the tight end plague for the Falcons. LB Deion Jones won the NFL Rookie Defense Player of the Month award Thursday so look for him to continue strong play in this one.
That being said Greg Olsen should gear up for a lot of looks and get ready to run with room if he gets the ball.