By Matthew Asher
After a terrible showing following a 27-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons head to Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte to take on the 4-3 Carolina Panthers in Atlanta’s third NFC South divisional game this season.
If Atlanta wants a chance to leave Carolina with a 3-5 record, they need to figure out how to move the ball through the air. It may sound obvious, but that’s the lone “weak” spot in the Panthers defense (even though it’s the 10th best in the league).
Panthers on Offense
Regarding Carolina’s offense, there are two things the Panthers do well: score points and run the ball. The 24.3 points scored each game by the Panthers are the 12th most in the league. Averaging 130 rushing yards per game, the Carolina ground attack is the eighth most potent in the NFL.
As far as total offensive yards and passing yards are concerned, Carolina ranks in the bottom 10. They average 327 total yards and 197 passing yards each game which is good enough for 22nd and 29th place in the league, respectively.
Since his days at Auburn, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has been known as a dual threat quarterback. His passing stats, while not eye-popping, are respectable. Newton has completed almost 65 percent of his throws for more than 1,500 yards, 12 touchdowns and only five interceptions for a quarterback rating of 97.6.
Newton has also done a good job running with the ball. He’s currently third on his team with 50 rushing attempts, but the 229 rushing yards are the second most on the team and his three rushing touchdowns ties him with RB Mike Tolbert as the team leader. DeAngelo Williams leads the team with 114 rushes for 477 yards but only one rushing touchdown so far.
Newton has done a good job spreading the ball around to the Carolina receiving corps. Steve Smith, Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr. all have at least 20 catches for more than 300 receiving yards. Smith leads the team in receptions with 32 and is tied with Brandon LaFell with three receiving touchdowns apiece. Olson leads the team with 360 receiving yards and has two touchdowns as well. Ginn is right behind Olson with 357 yards and two touchdowns of his own.
Panthers on Defense
If you’re wondering how Carolina has a winning record even if they’re offense isn’t that great, the answer is their defense. The Panthers rank in the top 10 teams in the league regarding points allowed, total yards given up, passing and rushing yards as well.
The 13.7 points given up each game and the 79.3 rushing yards allowed are second only to the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, respectively. The 301.4 total yards allowed each game are the third least in the league and the 222.1 passing yards allowed are the 10th least.
If Atlanta has any chance of winning the game this Sunday, Matt Ryan is going to have to use his arm, because the Panthers “D” is going to squash any attempt at an Atlanta running attack.
Kickoff is scheduled for Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. EST. #RiseUp
For more Falcons news and updates, visit Falcons Central.
Matthew Asher is a freelance journalist. From an early age, sports have played a major role in his life. He graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in Journalism. After college he spent 2 years working with CNN Sports and still occasionally writes sports articles for several publications both in the United States and Canada. His work can be found on Examiner.com.