Week 8 Thursday Night Football Preview: Who Are The Panthers?

Written By: Dylan Moran

Another week, another division matchup in Primetime football that really has no major impact on the playoff race. Sure, the Eagles picked up a division win against the Giants, but even if they do win the division, with whatever record, they will be a first-round exit. Now we have the Falcons going to Carolina to play the Panthers. In a perfect world, we would see passing vs. running. Julio vs. CMC. A fight for 1st or 2nd place in the division! But this is 2020 folks. It is far from a perfect world.

On October 29, 2020, around 8:20 PM EST, the game will kickoff and one of the biggest storylines will be “if the Falcons get a lead, can they hold it?”. CMC is a likely scratch from this game while he recovers from a high ankle sprain. The Falcons are 1-6 and could be a full “Sell” team with the trade deadline only a week away. With “Tompa Bay” looking like a Super Bowl contender as of late, it is just a matter of who can claim 2nd place and maybe sneak into a wild card spot, the Saints or Panthers?

I look at this game as a major milestone for the Panthers. They are only one win behind the Saints who can pick up steam at any point. When they have Michael Thomas back and Emmanual Sanders involved in the offense, they could rip off 6 straight wins, no matter the opponent. The Panthers need to keep up with them and it starts with getting this win against the Falcons to at least tie them in the win column (pending Sunday’s happenings). This is likely their last game without CMC being in the lineup. They just need one more win and they could stay on track. 

The issue is, we don’t know who the Panthers are. We all went into this season looking at them as a rebuilding team with limited offensive weapons, a bad O-Line, and a very young defense. All of that is still true, but Teddy Bridgewater has kept them alive with decent QB play, DJ Moore and Robby Anderson have picked up all the slack for the rest of the nonexistent offense, and the defense is schemed up very well for the lack of talent they possess in the secondary. Matt Rhule in his first season as the Head Coach has shown us that he is here to win and won’t lie down for anyone. 

My only question is, is this in the best interest of the team? Is this a team that can make a playoff run? Can they get past teams like Seattle, Arizona, Green Bay or even Tampa Bay in their own division? I don’t think so! So, why bother? 

Well, in case you have not figured it out yet, it is hard to tank in the NFL. Unless you do full fire sales like the Dolphins, Jets and Jags, players will still play hard and win games. That is what I see happening with the Panthers. Ownership I am sure is saying, “dude, we are rebuilding, chill!”, but the players and Matt Rhule are flipping them the bird as they low ride into the 7th seed. I love me some CMC and Teddy B, so watching them have “success” is fun for me.

Keys to Victory:

For The Falcons, they just need one stroke of good luck. At some point in the game, their offense AND defense need to be on the same page. Hey, if the offense scores a touchdown and gives the team a 92%+ chance to win the game, don’t choke every time! The offense is on fire most games and can score 30+ easily. Matt Ryan can still sling it as well as any QB that is older than guys like Patty MaHomie. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley have become a WR Duo that can compete with any other duo in the league. Todd Gurley is not his old self and never will be, but he is reliable and can pick up first downs.

My real honest key to the game for them is to score a lot of points. The defense cannot be trusted to hold any lead. If the Falcons don’t even have a lead, they won’t ever catch up. Score first, early, and often. Go get them Matty Ice.

For The Panthers, as much trash as I just talked about the Falcons defense, they need to protect Teddy Bridgewater. The offensive line has not been very good and now Russel Okung is starting to show why he has been traded around the league for the past few years. Injuries. Something that the O-line cannot afford right now. Don’t get me wrong, Teddy can scramble and throw outside the pocket if he needs to, but when it is every play, no one can handle that much pressure. Let him stand in the pocket and throw the ball 50 yards downfield to Robby and DJ. It’s their most effective way of scoring and moving the ball when Teddy has time.

Who Wins?

The Panthers are 2.5 point favorites right now and if I was a betting man, I would take the underdog (set at 49.5 right now… seriously?). The Panthers have shown the ability to score and so have the Falcons. In a shoot out style game, the Falcons will redeem themselves and show hope of avoiding a rebuild. 

Score Prediction: Falcons 34 – Panthers 30

For more of Dylan’s content, follow him on Instagram here! https://www.instagram.com/onandoffthefield/

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