The I-85 Rivalry will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina this week, as the visiting Atlanta Falcons will take on the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons are coming off a huge road upset, beating the New Orleans Saints and are looking to string together some wins to salvage some pride this season. The Panthers are looking to keep their somewhat dim playoff hopes alive after a tough loss on the road against the Green Bay Packers. Let’s take a look at this matchup and see what the keys to victory are for the Panthers.
The Offensive Line Must Protect Kyle Allen
The Falcons have had a somewhat below-average pass rush this season, which is surprising considering the players they have on their defensive line. Last week against the Saints, they were amazing. They sacked Drew Brees six total times and pressured him all game in another hard-fought NFC South rivalry. The three-headed attack of Grady Jarret, Vic Beasley, and Adrian Clayborn. This is a formidable trio that the Panthers will have to contend with all game long. The Panthers will be getting back offensive lineman Greg Little this week, who has finally cleared concussion protocol. Earlier this season Little showed a great deal of promise until he went down with a concussion which kept him out several weeks. Kyle Allen does not do well when he is pressured or hurried, so in order for him to get into a rhythm and do well, he needs to be protected.
Carolina Will Have to Contain the Passing Game
The Panthers will not have to worry about Devonta Freeman or Austin Hooper this week, as they are listed as out for this week’s game. The starting running back will either be Brian Hill or Kenjon Barner. Hill hasn’t played much this year and has only totaled 101 yards rushing. This means that the Falcons will likely look to the passing side to keep them in the game. This isn’t a bad plan considering the Falcons still have Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy, and Russell Gage. Defending the pass might be a challenge this week for Carolina because of some recent injuries to the secondary. They will be without Ross Cockrell for sure this Sunday and possibly even Donte Jackson. The high flying corner will likely be a game-time decision as he is listed as questionable on the injury report for Sunday’s rivalry.
Mccaffrey Needs to Be the Trend-Setter for the Game
In order for the Panthers to do well, McCaffrey must be able to get going early. This won’t be an easy task considering the Falcons have stepped up their game in shutting down the run game and running backs who can catch. This was shown last week as the Falcons shut down Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray. The Falcons know all too well what McCaffrey is capable of in the past head to head matchups in this rivalry and they will be looking to shut him down early. If McCaffrey can get going early, it will establish success for the rest of the offense. It will open up the passing game and make life easier for Kyle Allen. If this doesn’t happen then the Panthers will struggle.
I believe the Panthers will come away with a win in this one. Kyle Allen has played well in Bank of America Stadium, and he should do well against an Atlanta team that has struggled a lot this season. I personally believe the Saints game was a fluke for Atlanta and they will fall back into their losing ways. The Panthers should win this game by ten points or maybe even two touchdowns. I am expecting McCaffrey to have a good game and Kyle Allen to continue improving his chemistry with his receivers. I expect the Panthers to improve to 6-4 on the season and the Falcons to fall to 2-8 at the end of the I-85 Rivalry.
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