Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Panthers Look to Bounce Back vs. Falcons

Sharon Thorsland
November 15, 2019 - 3:25 pm

It's rivalry time for the Panthers, who take on NFC South foe Atlanta at Bank of America stadium. Kick-off is set for 1:00 Sunday on WBT.

The Panthers are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Packers at Lambeau, but that's nothing compared to the Falcons brutal season.

At 2-7 on the year, they've had an inconsistent offense, no running game to speak of, and a defense that couldn't generate any pressure.

All that seemed to change last week though, when they laid a whooping on the Saints in New Orleans. So what changed?

Panther cornerback James Bradberry says that's what happens in a division game.

“I tell people all the time when it's time for division games, you never know,” said Bradberry. “Cause a team might not be playing too well when they play other teams, but when they play a division game, they're gonna turn it on and be at their best.”

Bradberry and the Panthers expect that same effort from the Falcons on Sunday. And while their record might not show it, the Falcons have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball.

Matt “Matty Ice” Ryan leads a passing attack that ranks 2nd in the NFL averaging nearly 320 passing yards per game.

And he's got arguably the best receiver in the game in Julio Jones. The six-time Pro Bowler is a nightmare for opposing defenses, and once burned the Panthers for 300 yards in one game!

Jones has a mini-me in second-year player Calvin Ridley, and former East Carolina standout Justin Hardy also in the mix. Ryan's favorite target has been Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper, but he's out with a knee injury.

The Falcons will likely be without Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman for this game as well, he's nursing a foot injury.

Even with Freeman, the Falcons running attack has been abysmal – they're averaging just under 77 yards a game, that's 29th in the NFL.

Freeman's backup Ito Smith landed on IR with a neck injury, so the Falcons will go with third-stringer Brian Hill. That's good news for the Panthers, who have struggled lately against the run allowing over 136 yards per game.

The Falcons defense has been having its own problems, giving up nearly 372 yards and 29 points per game.

They've managed just 13 sacks on the season but looked much improved last week, sacking Drew Brees six times.

Former Clemson standout Vic Beasley anchors a deep defensive line, which also features Grady Jarrett and Adrian Clayborn, who's back after a one year stint with the Patriots.

Speedy linebacker Deion Jones is back and healthy, but the Falcons lost starting safety Keanu Neal to a season-ending injury for the second straight year.

The defense appears to be coming together though, and Panther running back Christian McCaffrey is expecting a challenge.

“They know us, we know them so it's a great matchup. You know they got a lot of team speed, they got a good front seven, good DBs, so we're going to have to come to play.”

There's no doubt about that. This is a division game against a team that also happens to be one of the Panthers' biggest rivals.

The Falcons have won three in a row in the series, and six of the last seven, so Carolina would like a little payback.

And after last week's loss to the Packers, this game is even more important.

“We really need to win this game,” said safety Colin Jones. “One - to right the ship and get back where we were.

And two – a division game counts double, and this is one we definitely need, especially at home.”

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