The Carolina Panthers need to flex their offensive muscle against the Atlanta Falcons in what could be a shootout in Week 4
The Carolina Panthers are traveling to Atlanta to open their conference play against their NFC South rivals. The Panthers are heading into this game with a rocky start to their 2016 season and a number of developing questions on the horizon. Expectations were that this group is the standout to win the division again and be a threat to another NFC championship. The way the Panthers play against the Falcons will set the tone to either continue or derail those expectations.
Defense is a major concern for the Falcons. In the three games the Falcons have played they may be 2-1, but they’ve allowed 30 points per outing. While the offense has been able to keep pace with the high scoring games, they haven’t faced a team defense such as the Panthers. Carolina’s defense has played well against some strong offenses early this season. The glaring question is whether or not the Panthers’ offense will be able to keep up with the Falcons in the battle to put up points.
On paper, Carolina has an extremely powerful offense. Cam Newton has a host of weapons in both the running and passing attacks. From Greg Olsen to Jonathan Stewart to Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr; this unit is expected to put up points in bunches. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to do so in any fashion on a consistent basis this year. In the two losses suffered this year the Panthers scored only three points in the second half of play. Both the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings had the defense capabilities to keep Newton and company in check. The question is whether or not the Falcons can do the same thing.
Carolina has the weapons to pester this defensive unit. Atlanta is allowed 318 yards through the air at this point in the year. Expect Benjamin, Olsen, Ginn, and Devin Funchess to work the outsides and stretch the field. Atlanta is allowing for an average of 10 yards per reception and has given up 14 receptions of 20+ yards. These are two areas in which Carolina has excelled when the offense is working well.
Both Funchess and Benjamin were held without catches last week and Newton has made it clear that he’s going to make an effort to get the ball to both men. What’s important is that he doesn’t force the ball in their direction. While Atlanta has shown a weakness across the board defensively, Carolina potentially has too much to offer this team from an offensive standpoint. This is the type of game that lends itself to a box score filled with multiple contributors in both the rushing and receiving aspects of this game.
It’s very early to talk about “must-win” games, but this is a game that the Panthers need to take. Atlanta is an offensive powerhouse but shows a weakness when teams that can match them in that output. The Panthers’ defense always shows up to contribute and this is a moment in which the stagnating offense has to turn a corner and match their play.