By Conor Perrett
We start Week 10 of the NFL season with an NFC South clash as the tied for first place Atlanta Falcons travel to Carolina, who are operating a revolving door with their quarterbacks. Both teams are at the bottom half of the league, but a late charge for the playoffs is always possible with how wide open the NFC South division is.
Carolina Panthers (2-7)
Power Rankings: 30th
DVOA Rankings: Offence – 31st, Defence – 28th. Special Teams – 10th; Overall – 32nd
The last time these two teams met was only 11 days ago and it feels that a lot has changed in that time for both sides. From the Panthers point of view, they look like a new team under interim head coach Steve Wilks, but an embarrassing first-half performance last week versus Cincinnati led to a useful blowout loss.
Right now the Panthers have a quarterback situation that seems all over the place. They started the season with Sam Darnold in situ, but an injury to him led to a trade for former first overall pick Baker Mayfield. Mayfield didn’t exactly hit the ground running with an QB rating of 16.9, so when he went down with an injury, PJ Walker was the next man up and he flashed with the lights on him.
In his first three starts, a touchdown to interception ratio of 3:1 was inspiring until last week against the Bengals when he recorded a 0.0 passer rating in the first half.
Baker then stepped back in and led touchdowns drives on three of his four possessions to make his case if the job is back up for grabs. But just when you think it’s a two-horse race, pre-season starter Darnold has been activated off IR. For the time being it looks like Walker will start the game against the Falcons, but don’t be surprised to see the former 2018 draft class QBs get a run under centre.
Atlanta Falcons (4-5)
Power Rankings: 18th
DVOA Rankings: Offence – 8th, Defence – 29th, Special Teams – 8th; Overall – 16th
As I mentioned above, a lot has changed for these two sides since they met in their controversial match-up in Week 8 and none is bigger than the Falcons getting their best player back with the return of Corfarrelle Patterson.
In his return against the Chargers this past Sunday, Patterson didn’t miss a beat when he found himself into the endzone twice off only 13 carries. Now against a Panthers side that has allowed the third-most rushing yards in the league this year, look for Arthur Smith’s run-heavy approach to exploit that weakness.
Atlanta is currently tied with Tampa Bay for first place in the NFC South and there’s growing confidence around the organisation that they can win it. With an offence that largely looks to run the ball down opponents throats, quarterback Marcus Mariota is doing his job as well. Mariota is 14th in the NFL in passer rating after these nine games. He’s also 22nd in passing yards, 2nd in air yards per attempt, but is lacking in completion percentage at 28th. With exciting receivers including Kyle Pitts and Drake London on the roster, there’s potential for a well-rounded exciting offence, but Arthur Smith has focused on the run.
Week 8 – Panthers @ Falcons, 34-37 Falcons Win
It was only a little over a week ago that these two teams met where things got very close towards the end. A late diving effort from DJ Moore looked to be the last twist in the game when he tied the game with only seconds remaining. While celebrating his score Moore was flagged for taking off his helmet and with the PAT moved back 15 yards, Eddy Pineiro missed the extra point and sent the two sides into overtime.
From there, Carolina thought they pulled off an upset until Pineiro missed an easier field goal which allowed the Falcons back in to snatch the win.
The game two weeks ago was very close and higher scoring but I think it may be a bit different this time around. With the Falcons getting Patterson back and PJ Walker coming off a very poor performance last week, I expect both sides to run the ball and control the clock down more.
Both defences have been bad from a league perspective, so there is always the potential of big plays that can swing the momentum either way.
Withboth defences not standing out from the rest, I am leaning with the away team who have the far superior offence. Panthers should have probably walked away with the win 11 days ago, but with the success Atalnata has shown on the ground through the first half of the season, I have no doubt they will remain the dominant in that area.
Falcons 24, Panthers 17