Carolina (1-2) at Atlanta (2-1)
When: Sunday, October 2nd 2016
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Time: 1:00 ET | TV: FOX
The Carolina Panthers look to get back on track as they visit the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday afternoon at the Georgia Dome. Carolina won 15 games last season en route to a Super Bowl appearance, but have a 1-2 start to this season after last week’s 22-10 setback against the Vikings. Carolina’s offense was sluggish in the loss to Minnesota, compiling just 306 yards and committing three turnovers to raise the team’s total to seven over the last two games. That is mainly why the defense ranks 19th in scoring despite ranking 3rd in total defense – the offense is putting the defense in awful positions. The turnovers are the clear concern for Carolina, as Cam Newton has thrown as many interceptions – five – as touchdown passes. The Panthers still are moving the ball on the ground, even with Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne filling in for Jonathan Stewart (hamstring). Carolina will face a poor Atlanta secondary, which should help them get the passing game going assuming they can stop turning the ball over. DT Kawann Short has four sacks and two forced fumbles in his last two games against the Falcons and five sacks in his last four games versus NFC South opponenents.
Atlanta is off to a terrific start offensively, but the defense needs to start stopping teams. QB Matt Ryan has led Atlanta to the top-ranked offense (448 yards/game) in the NFL and number one scoring offense (34.7). Ryan has passed for 970 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception while Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are getting it done in the backfield. Freeman had a career-high 207 yards from scrimmage last week (152 rushing, 55 receiving) and Coleman scored three touchdowns. Surprisingly, the offense is doing all of this damage with little help from star wide receiver Julio Jones, who has just 10 catches for 188 yards in three games. Tight end Jacob Tamme leads the team with 14 receptions as Ryan is spreading the ball around effectively. There is plenty of cause for concern on the other side of the ball, though, as the Falcons rank 30th in total defense and 28th in scoring defense and have been terrible against the pass (313 yards/game).
I like this situation for Carolina. They’re coming off a beat-down at home, while at Atlanta is off a huge Monday night road win. The Panthers will also be looking for revenge. Remember, this Carolina team is still one of the best in the NFL if they can just hold onto the ball. I think they will Sunday and beat Atlanta and cover the spread.
Pick: Panthers -3