Inside The Knox Score: Panthers at Falcons

Think back to last year when the Atlanta Falcons were a dominating team and held home-field throughout the playoffs. This off-season as we know, they traded the farm away to move up in the draft and take Julio Jones, who just happens to be injured now. All of this self-doubting done in an attempt to beat the Packers. Trying to build your team just to beat another squad rarely works. I know, I’m a Boston Red Sox fan and have watched Theo Epstein make moves just to prevent the Yankees from getting guys like John Lackey and Carl Crawford. Moves that have back-fired badly. This game’s line is only opening at -5.5 in favor of the Falcons and has already dipped down to -4. If this were week 1 after last season the line would have posted at -10.5 or so. My how things can change in the landscape of the NFL in 5 weeks. Line movement like this tells me immediately that the public is laying heavy on the Panthers. Watch the line bump back up a bit hours before the game. Guaranteed. The total is posting at 51.5 most likely because of Cam Newton and the Panthers awful defense.

Trends:

Panthers are 4-0 vs ATS (against the spread) last 4 weeks, but are 1-4 ATS on the road in last 5 and 1-4 ATS in their division last 5. Falcons are 11-1 in their last 12 following a game they scored 15 points or less, are 6-1 ATS against teams with losing records in last 7 gms, but are 1-4 in their last 5 games as favorites.

Carolina Offense vs Atlanta Defense

Cam Newton is proving to everyone that he is the next big thing in the NFL. Whether he’s running a naked bootleg, option with D. Williams or rolling out a and hitting Steve Smith for a deep gain. The one knock I have on Cam is that he hasn’t done when it comes to controlling the tempo of the game and this is a game where he needs to step-up and learn this skill. He’s facing a very fast linebacker core that needs to exploit the weak-side of the line. S. Weatherspoon needs to have a strong game for Atlanta to prevent those naked bootlegs. It seems obvious watching film that when Newton goes weak-side bootleg they option and when he rolls right he utilizes his tight-ends Shockey a lot. The 4-3 base defense of Atlanta has to get pressure on Newton and force him into the middle of the pocket and try to confuse him with different looks and a ton of noise from the Georgia Dome. John Abraham looks like a game-time decision and that may hurt the Falcons here. It’s always fun watching Cam Newton’s athleticism in action and this match-up should be no different against the NFL’s 8th ranked run defense. What I want to know is when a defense is going to worry about covering everybody else on the field and force Newton to run more, therefore taking hit after hit. NFL hits will wear the kid down by the 3rd quarter and one hard hit to the chest might just make him think twice about running freely as he has.

Atlanta Offense vs. Carolina Defense

The QB formerly known as Matty Ice has been anything but that this season, but I can’t lay all the blame on the kid. His passer rating is awful, but he hasn’t been asked to throw the ball this much since High School. He is third in the league in attempts at 196 and has already thrown 6 INTs.  Call me crazy, but it seems the Falcons organization is trying to justify their pick of Julio Jones by throwing the ball a ton. His injury will force them to get back to what made them tough to beat last season and that’s more balance. More Michael Turner mixed in with some no-huddle sets unexpectedly to keep the Panthers 27th ranked rush defense tired. The Panthers defense should be blitzing from every direction. Atlanta will be without their center this week and have allowed a whopping 14 sacks to date. Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott is no stranger to pressuring the QB, having spent years in the blitz-happy Philly Eagles organization. This pressure will, however leave Tony Gonzalez open in the middle and allow Roddy White free if Ryan reads the package properly.

Fantasy & Game Predictions 

From a Fantasy standpoint is hard to think Cam Newton won’t have another big game, but I’m going to temper his numbers this time. Why? I just feel the Falcons will control the clock more and limit his time on the field. If Atlanta gets up early they will let Newton run more and play contained meaning a lot of yards underneath and on the ground, albeit very hard-earned ones. Don’t expect a lot from Deangelo Williams this week, not against that 4-3 base and those quick LBs. Steve Smith could have a decent game with a lot of quick slants and such. I’m giving Newton 220 in the air and 60 on the ground with 1TD. Smith is good for 5 receptions but maybe only 50 yards or so and no TDS. One of the Tight Ends from Carolina will catch a TD pass and my guess is Greg Olson. For Atlanta, Turner breaks out in this one. He will get at least 25 rushes and break for 2 TDS against over-aggressive blitz packages. The no-huddle mixed in will help Ryan stay steady at 230 YDs and a TD to Gonzalez, while Roddy White does most of the receiving damage getting at least 90 yds on 7-8 catches.

Pick: Falcons get back to their bread and butter and clamp down at home 27-16 to cover the -4 points, but with the ball in Turners hands and the clock moving the score stays way under the 51.5 points.

You can follow JB Knox on twitter @theknoxscore

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Comments
One Response to “Inside The Knox Score: Panthers at Falcons”
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