Falcons look for 3rd straight win vs struggling Panthers

·4 min read

CAROLINA (3-4) at ATLANTA (3-3)

Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox

OPENING LINE: Atlanta by 3, according to FanDuel SportsBook.

AGAINST THE SPREAD: Carolina 3-4; Atlanta 3-3.

SERIES RECORD: Falcons lead 33-19.

LAST MEETING: Falcons beat Panthers 25-17 on Oct. 29, 2020, in Charlotte, North Carolina.

LAST WEEK: Panthers lost at Giants 25-3; Falcons won at Dolphins 30-28.

PANTHERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (25), RUSH (20), PASS (26), SCORING (T-22).

PANTHERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (3), RUSH (13), PASS (2), SCORING (T-7).

FALCONS OFFENSE: OVERALL (17), RUSH (27), PASS (10), SCORING (T-19).

FALCONS DEFENSE: OVERALL (18), RUSH (16), PASS (19), SCORING (30).

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: Panthers minus-5; Falcons minus-3.

FALCONS PLAYER TO WATCH: TE Kyle Pitts Pitts set a franchise record at his position with 163 yards receiving on seven catches in last week's victory over Dolphins. He has 471 yards through the first six games, which puts him on pace for the best season by a rookie tight end in NFL history. He has thoroughly justified being picked No. 4 overall.

PANTHERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Sam Darnold is in a huge slump. He’s thrown seven interceptions in the last four games and his confidence took a hit last week when he was benched in the fourth quarter of Carolina’s ugly loss to the Giants. With reports swirling about Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson, Darnold was set to start against the Falcons. But he could be running out of chances to hang on to his job.

KEY MATCHUP: Atlanta’s passing game vs. Carolina's secondary. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has thrown for more than 300 yards in back-to-back games, but he's going against a defense that has allowed just 197.1 yards through the air, ranking second in the NFL.

KEY INJURIES: Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey will miss his fifth straight game with a hamstring injury and RG John Miller is out with a foot injury. However, several Carolina players are slated for a return against their NFC South foes, including LT Cam Erving, LB Shaq Thompson and S Juston Burris. Also, CB Stephon Gilmore might be ready to take the field for the first time for the Panthers since being acquired in a trade with New England. ... Falcons CB A.J. Terrell sustained a concussion against the Dolphins. CB Fabian Moreau (neck) and S Erik Harris (shoulder) had to leave last week's game, but their injuries do not appear serious. CB Avery Williams hopes to return after missing two games with an ailing hamstring. OT Kaleb McGary is also back after a week on the COVID-19 reserve list.

SERIES NOTES: The Falcons have won six of the last seven meetings between the division rivals. The only Carolina win in that span was a 23-16 victory last season in Atlanta that dropped the Falcons to 0-5, which led to the firing of coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff a few hours later. ... The teams have played three overtime games, with the Falcons winning them all. ... The Falcons hold a 19-7 edge in games played in Atlanta.

STATS AND STUFF: The Panthers have lost four straight games. ... Carolina was 2 of 15 on third-down conversions last week. ... Darnold’s career record as an NFL starter is 16-29. ... RB Chuba Hubbard was held to 28 yards on 12 carries last week by the Giants. .... WR Robby Anderson has four drops in the past two games. ... Carolina’s defense has four sacks in the last four games after making 14 sacks in the first three games. ... Carolina’s offensive line has allowed 24 sacks, second most in the league behind the Bears (26). ... The Falcons have won two straight games to reach .500 for the first time since Week 2 of the 2019 season. ... Atlanta hasn't had a winning mark since the end of the 2017 season, which was also the last time the Falcons made the playoffs. ... Atlanta's three wins have come against teams with a combined 4-16 record. ... LB Deion Jones was NFC defensive player of the week after matching his career high with 15 tackles (11 solo), including three tackles behind the line and a sack. He was also targeted eight times in the passing game and limited Dolphins' receivers to 36 yards and one first down. ... Jones was the first NFC player to have 15 tackles, three tackles for losses and a sack since San Francisco’s Jamie Winborn in 2002. ... K Younghoe Koo is perfect this season: 10 for 10 on field goals and 13 of 13 on extra points. Since arriving in Atlanta midway through the 2019 season, Koo has made 70 of 75 field goal attempts (93.3%).

FANTASY TIP: Pitts is an obvious selection for any fantasy team, but let's look beyond the Falcons' star rookie. Panthers WR D.J. Moore had 93 yards receiving and a touchdown in last year’s game at Atlanta. He's had at least 80 yards receiving in three of his last four games in Atlanta, not to mention a TD in two of his last three visits to the A-T-L.

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The Associated Press

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