Task at Hand – Falcons @ Panthers Preview

Battle Up I-85 North

Can Coleman and Co. Sweep (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Falcons are 5-3 at the midpoint and right in the thick of the battle for the playoffs, likely not for the NFC South Crown barring a complete collapse by the Saints. Assuming they might be looking at a wild-card run, the Falcons have to keep a serious focus on the task at hand and worry solely about the NFC South rivalry coming up in Charlotte against the Panthers. Granted the Panthers aren’t having the best of years, sitting at 3-5 at the midway point, but they are an extremely proud team that knows that anything is possible in the second half of the season. Many teams have overcome worse to make runs and get into the playoffs. To say that this is a needed win for the Panthers would be understating it since they’re already well under .500 and John Fox’s seat might be burning hot. To Mike Smith’s credit, the Falcons have done a pretty good job of winning the games they’re supposed to for the most part. The Birds still have many areas to improve upon and they are yet to put all three phases of their game together, save for the San Francisco game, particularly finding consistency in the passing attack. The Falcons surely have some enormous games coming down the pipe with a trip to New York looming next week followed by the Philadelphia Eagles in a couple weeks in the Terror-Dome. Ironically, as it stands now the Falcons are in a close heat with New York and Philly for the two wild card spots if the playoffs were to start soon. Of course none of that matters if the Birds can’t take of business against the Panthers in Bank of America Stadium on Sunday.

Match-Ups

Falcons Defense vs. Panthers Offense

DE – John Abraham vs. RT – Jeff Otah

DT – Jonathan Babineaux vs. RG – Keydrick Vincent

DT – Jamaal Anderson/Vance Walker vs. C – Ryan Kalil/LG – Travelle Wharton

DE – Kroy Biermann vs. LT – Jordan Gross

SLB – Stephen Nicholas vs. TE – Jeff King

MLB – Curtis Lofton vs. FB – Brad Hoover/RB – Jonathan Stewart

WLB – Mike Peterson vs. vs. RB – Deangelo Williams

CB – Chris Houston vs. WR – Steven Smith

CB – Tye Hill vs. WR – Muhsin Muhammed

SS – Erik Coleman vs. TE – Jeff King

FS – Thomas DeCoud vs. QB – Jake Delhomme

Nickel – Chevis Jackson/Brent Grimes vs. Slot – Dwayne Jarrett

Falcons Offense vs. Panthers Defense

LT – Sam Baker/Will Svitek vs. DE – Julius Peppers

LG – Justin Blalock vs. DT – Damione Lewis

C – Todd McClure/RG – Harvey Dahl vs. DT – Hollis Thomas

RT – Tyson Clabo vs. Tyler Brayton

RB – Michael Turner vs. WLB – James Anderson

FB – Ovie Mughelli vs. MLB – Jon Beason

TE – Tony Gonzalez vs. SLB – Na’il Diggs

WR – Roddy White vs. CB – Chris Gamble

WR – Michael Jenkins vs. CB – Richard Marshall

TE – Tony Gonzalez vs. SS – Chris Harris

QB – Matt Ryan vs. FS – Charles Godfrey

Slot – Marty Booker/Eric Weems vs. CB – Captain Munnerlyn/CJ Wilson

Six Searing Questions

 

1) Will Sam Baker Play and Will the OL Keep Ryan Upright?

Sam Baker was held out of practice this week due to an injury sustained against the Redskins. Although Baker was extremely injury-prone last year, he has started and played in all 8 games so far this season. Along with the rest of the offensive line, Baker hasn’t been a stout pillar of protection for Matt Ryan as of late. Baker was replaced by Will Svitek in the lineup against he Redskins and seemed to play well in relief. One of Dimitroff’s big goals was to shore up the offensive line in terms of depth. Svitek and Brett Romberg were two signings that flew well under the radar, but have shown to be good pickups to date. If Baker doesn’t play, will Svitek be able to handle All-Pro Julius Peppers in check or will the Panthers defensive line continue the hard knocks on Matt Ryan?

2) Can Ryan Rediscover His Mojo?

Back to Excellent for #2? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Much has certainly been made of Matt Ryan’s slump or non-slump in the last few games. Ryan has seen better games after throwing quite a few interceptions in the last 3 games (6) and looking a little rattled from time to time. He’s on target for the same amount of passing yards as last season and his touchdowns are almost equal to that of his entire total from last year, but the Ryan has made some uncharacteristic decisions and seems to be locked onto Tony Gonzalez in spite of his other receivers downfield. Lack of a running game could have once been proffered, but that has completely gone by the wayside the last two weeks with Michael Turner ripping off some huge games against the Saints and Redskins. Although Ryan has appeared to not throw the ball deep, he’s on par to meet the same goal of +20 passes as last year. Ryan had a paltry 135 yards passing last week, but he did complete over 70% of his passes. Ryan was 21 for 27 last time against the Cats for 2 TDs, may the Panthers be his cure for what’s ailing him?

3) Can Turner Continue His Scalding Streak?

Running back Michael Turner has absolutely been on fire the last couple of weeks, racking up over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns in the last two weeks and not against the weakest of defenses in New Orleans and Washington either. The return of Ovie Mughelli has surely been a welcome addition to the running game, particularly with Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling being sidelined recently. The Panthers defense may not be on their normal dominance, missing Thomas Davis and starting DT Maake Kemoeatu going down for the season early in the year, but they are playing at home and have their backs completely against the wall in this one. If they’ve seen the game tape from the last two weeks, they probably will be loading the box up and forcing Matt Ryan to beat them through the air. Aaron Stecker proved formidable in the passing game, but obviously lacked the speed of Norwood to be a true complement to Turner’s thunder.

4) Can Falcons D-Line and Defense Keep the Williams-Stewart Combo in Check?

As expected, Deangelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have caught fire as of recent with the Panthers determined to run the ball first, often, and always. Williams, in particular, has been on a great streak of late going over 150 yards rushing in three of the last four games. Stewart’s numbers are down a little bit, but he’s edged up close to a 5 yard per rush average and is a tough runner, especially around the goal-line. The Falcons defense has done a much better job of keeping some of the better running back tandems in check in the Cowboys Marion Barber-Felix Jones-Tashard Choice and Saints Mike Bell-Reggie Bush-Pierre Thomas. Jamaal Anderson’s move to the middle has fortified the rush defense and the emergence of Vance Walker coupled with the return of Trey Lewis has meant better rush stopping. They have their work cut out this week.

5) Will Tye Hill and the Falcons Secondary Limit Steve Smith?

Big Game for Jackson and D (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Falcons secondary has rebounded very nicely in the last two weeks after a complete meltdown in Dallas. Admittedly Jason Campbell and the Redskins are pretty inept in the passing attack, but there’s no question they played well when they held Drew Brees, arguably the NFL’s best QB this year, to his worst passer rating of the year. Chris Houston has been playing better in man-to-man coverage and Tye Hill has been a nice surprise after learning the defense for several months after his trade from St. Louis. Chevis Jackson seemed to play like his old-self from starring in the nickel role a year ago. Jake Delhomme has had an up and down year, but he’s a cagey QB who can do good things if he gets into a rhythm and his running game is working well. The biggest question will be if the secondary can hold Steve Smith relatively in check. He had another big day against the Falcons DB’s in the second game in the Georgia Dome, going well over 130 yards receiving and exposing one the Falcons big weaknesses. And the nightmares still run rampant of Brent Grimes getting manhandled by Muhsin Muhammed last year in Charlotte.

6) Will the Falcons Get Caught Looking Ahead?

If past results under Coach Mike Smith are any indication, the answer is not likely. Smith’s teams are generally well-prepared and show up ready for the task, notably in rivalry games. Smith and Co. have done a good job of keeping the team in a mindset of playing week to week and refusing to get caught looking ahead. There are surely some big games ahead on the schedule with an away trip to the Giants in New York and the Eagles at home, both looking to be in direct competition for the wild card spots. All of that will be for naught if the Falcons can’t take care of business against a tough, but less than stellar Panthers team.

Go Falcons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Your Turn

-You Answer the Six Searing Questions

-Will the Falcons take care of business in Charlotte?

-Are the Birds vulnerable to looking ahead to next week?

-Will the Panthers come out firing with their backs against the wall?

-Can the offensive line keep pressure off Ryan?

-Is this Ryan’s game to get back on track?

-Will Turner continue his hot streak?

-What will the Falcons defense do with Williams and Stewart?

-Who should be on Steve Smith: Chris Houston or Tye Hill?

-What’s your final prediction and score?

468 comments Add your comment

John K

November 12th, 2009
9:49 pm

I am very worried about this game. I like our chances against the Giants better than the Panthers.

Birdman

November 12th, 2009
10:15 pm

We are gona take the panthers . Smith and the team know its a must win to have a chance at the wild card race.Its do are die.So look for a W on this one
Falcons 24 Panthers 17

Oh yea great post D3 once again and thanks for the happy B day man

Birdman

November 12th, 2009
10:28 pm

I think they will be focused on this game .They should have enough since to know what the outcome will be if they turn there backs. I really think we take them.Also Smith is going to bring the Birds out fighting .The man has got to be upset with the NFL and this low blow of a fine he was given .He will prove something here .And I think his team owes it to him .

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
10:28 pm

Well, having road tripped to Charlotte 5 years in a row until last year, when we attended Tampa instead, we have a very good track record there. I think Delhomme melts down again and we win. In other news, I was sooo happy we pulled one out against the Bears a few weeks ago but watching this game we should have creamed them.

D3, I will check out the Movie Tavern Sunday and report in. I too am biased as I live about 3 miles myself. But a free giant screen & bucket of beer sounds really good. Not sure we can beat that.

Thank God I didn’t play Cutler this week…

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
10:35 pm

Where is everybody?

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
10:43 pm

Jeesh, should have used SF’s D this week – 4 picks???

sportaree

November 12th, 2009
10:50 pm

D3 Good stuff as always. Go 49ers beat the Bears!

Wabe

November 12th, 2009
10:53 pm

I like the Falcons. I think we’re gonna see a duplicate of what we saw earlier in the season. Turner will continue his dominance in the run game, which should help open things up for Ryan and the receivers.

CAR plays a lot like us on defense. They really try to generate a pass rush with their front four and drop back into some soft zones – so Ryan needs to be careful when throwing the ball.

Defensively, lock up that 2-headed monster and get pressure to Delhomme. Blanket Steve Smith and force those other receivers to beat us.

Like I said, I think it’ll be a carbon copy of what we saw in Week 2. I’ll predict a 28-17 Falcons win.

Box

November 12th, 2009
11:13 pm

CAJ,
Posted on other post as well. I ended up at Ridgeview.

Box

November 12th, 2009
11:20 pm

Shawty,
Had to ace a quiz in psychology. I’m here for a little while. From other post, did you ever go to Buckhead Cinema\Drafthouse?
D3,
If we have to use back up help at LT, then we may need to use TE help to minimize Peppers. It will work, especially on third down when they will expect TG to go into a pattern. Protect Matt and let his confidence return. Let TG go into pattern on more first and second downs and let Turner rumble. IMHO.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:21 pm

Box, so glad we didn’t play Cutler this week.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:24 pm

Yep Box I did. I live right close to Lenox too.

OMG 5 INTS??? I think this a record of suckage.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:25 pm

Oh the service was bad there. Heard it’s much better at Movie Tavern.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:27 pm

My big dog came up limping this afetrnoon, do I take her to the Vet tomorrow or give it a minute? I gave her a tylonol. Was that bad she weighs about 65lbs.

Box

November 12th, 2009
11:29 pm

Shawty,
Why? And go Falcons!

Box

November 12th, 2009
11:32 pm

Shawty,
I have always used an infant or childrens medication because they use weight in their dosage instructions, but I am not a veterinarian.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:39 pm

My smaller young dog and her were playing and she came up limping, I didn’t see it.

Box

November 12th, 2009
11:50 pm

Shawty,
You have mail. I hope.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:53 pm

Nothing yet. I’m having Outlook issues though. Try s_brainerd@yahoo.com.

Box

November 12th, 2009
11:55 pm

I just want Matt to stay in the pocket a little longer. It seems that he bolted a little too early the past few weeks and is trying to escape up the middle and goes down when the pocket hasn’t really collapsed. IMHO.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:57 pm

I’ll be getting the Outlook disc tomorrow. Yahoo is working just fine.

Shawty

November 12th, 2009
11:57 pm

True I was thinking that especially against NO.

Box

November 13th, 2009
12:00 am

I tried again with new address. I had an extra “_” in your address.

Shawty

November 13th, 2009
12:05 am

Got and replied.

Box

November 13th, 2009
12:14 am

Injury report: LT Sam Baker (DNP, ankle), RB Jerious Norwood (DNP, hip), WR Brian Finneran (DNP, knee), WR Roddy White (limited, knee), DT Thomas Johnson (limited, calf), RB Jason Snelling (limited, hamstring), LB Curtis Lofton (full, knee and ankle).

Shawty

November 13th, 2009
12:18 am

Same as last week.

Box

November 13th, 2009
12:19 am

Box

November 13th, 2009
12:28 am

Shawty,
I’ll repeat your 22:35 post. Where is everybody? Have we offended anyone?

Shawty

November 13th, 2009
12:32 am

Beats me, must have something better to do.

Box

November 13th, 2009
1:00 am

Not much better than a Falcons blog. Their loss. Good night Lady Sarah and the Cage.

Ed

November 13th, 2009
3:14 am

Excellent breakdown D3. Must say this game really worries me as the Panthers are playing much better than when we faced them before. The way the Giants are playing looking ahead shouldn’t be a problem. I think our defense will do fine, it’s the offense that needs to step it up. Call it what you want but Ryan’s in a funk and not clicking with his receivers.

Samuel

November 13th, 2009
6:55 am

Yeah, I Think we can get a win, but we must stop the run and force Jake into passing situations John Abraham must show up in this game. He has’nt played well of late. Can we get Eric Weems to run one all the way back? We have’nt had a kickoff return run back all year. Matty Ice needs to fake pump the ball and stop looking for Tony G to bail him out all the time. What happen to Marty Booker? If Jason Snelling is healthy I’d like him to be a part of the offensive plan. I believe our defense is a little better than the last time we played them. Tye hill has the speed to keep up with Steve Smith but will he keep him in check? If our offensive coordinator can keep the panthers off balance the sky is the limit. Go Dirty Birds!!

stendec

November 13th, 2009
8:07 am

Thank you Coach Mike Smith! A fiery sideline leader is worth his weight in gold or other precious metals. Just wish you would have knocked piece of shet thug DeA$$hole Hall out! Worthless oxygen waste that he is/always will be! State fans blessed with you plus a certain gentleman who coaches college football in the same city! Such emotionalism is good for two or three victories per season. Unmotivational robots who may know x’s and o’s but little else are liabilities. Certain truck salesman in Athens comes to mind! Oh well. Thanks again coach. When thug Mike Sick comes to town with Eagles slug him once for me! My check will be in the mail. Keep on fighting! ++STENDEC++

Gamer

November 13th, 2009
8:19 am

Reiterating the importance of a strong Falcons’ running game is never an understatement. Turner the Burner must continue his powerful scorching runs in order for the Falcons to win this one.

Hopefully, Ryan can relocate his long balls to the WR’s, especially to Roddy. Why have a Ferrari(Roddy) running at half speed nearly every down. If only to keep the opponents defense guessing, take some safe shots down field.

Ryan stop locking onto T. Gonzalez. Don’t become another Vick to Crumpler syndromatic. Tight ends are not built to stretch the field. Remember that!!!

So far, I like the recent improvements of the secondary play and the Front Four pass rush. The line-backers have played solid every game.

If the Falcons can eliminate silly turnovers at critical points of the game, then the Falcons should win. If turnovers happens then let it come at the expense of outstanding play by opposing defense, let’s not hand them the ball!!!

Falcons play with a passion to win on every down and play with a strong distaste for losing!!!! Demonstrate the heart of champions!!

CBrass

November 13th, 2009
9:46 am

CBrass

November 13th, 2009
9:49 am

DHunt

November 13th, 2009
10:47 am

Excellent matchup analysis D3. Possibly the best SPORTS analysis I’ve seen in this publication in years.

Put simply, Falcons have the better team and should pull it out. Onus this week on coaches to put better team in better positions to make plays, and keep them motivated for 4 quarters instead of the usual 2.5-3 they have been giving.

CBrass

November 13th, 2009
12:22 pm

D3,

Great job. You hit on all the points/questions that I have. I’m sure Smitty will have the guys ready. I like the fact they are taking the bus up to Charlotte in order to save time(less time traveling more time to rest). We need this game to keep pace with NO.

Ryan have to settle down and just need to get in a rhythm like you did when he completed 13 in a row in week two. During that stretch you could tell that his confidence was through the roof. He was decisive with his throws, had 1000% trust in his OL, and wasn’t second guessing himself. Hope that Turner can keep things going. He’s on a tear and hope to see him keep running over and by people. I’ve noticed that he has been having a lot of success when he runs outside then later in the game run between the tackles. With T. Davis out I hope to God we attack his replacement. If I’m not mistaken he covered Gonzo alot during the first game so Gonzo should be able to give Davis’s replacement a nice workout. I just hope Ryan doesn’t zone in on Gonzo and forget about White and Jenkins on the outside like he did last week.

We have to contain the two headed monster in Williams and Stewart. We did it with the three headed monster out in Dallas but we let Romo beat us with his arm. I think the most important thing is we have to put Delhomme on his butt. If we do that I’m sure Hill and DeCoud will have at least on pick a piece. If you notice the Philly game they harassed him the entire game and we need to do the same. I would love to see the D from the 2nd half of the NO game. If the D play with that mind set there is no doubt that we come away with a W.

Oh yea I hope to see Hill line up on Smith. He appears to have more speed and more awareness(he get’s his head around) then our dear friend Houston.

Again D3 great job.

Greg

November 13th, 2009
1:45 pm

I agree with JohnK…this game has me worried. We should win it, especially with the Panthers’ injuries. But three things are in question. Can we cover Steve Smith if he shows up big (which he can do any Sunday, against any team)? Arguably the greatest 5′9″ player ever to play in the NFL in my adult lifetime (I’m 61), Smith can be a game changer—he can easily throw up a 200-yard game. If Delhomme is given time, and he and Smith put us behind early, we need to really keep our composure up there. I’m particularly worried about Smith getting inside Chris Houston’s head, and Chris getting flustered. Second, and related, how do we handle the excellent Panthers’ O-Line? They block very well for their two great running backs, and they pass protect very well. Delhomme is very good dumping off to his backs if we put in blitz packages and they pick them up. Third, which Delhomme will show up? If it’s Delhomme on a good day, it’s gonna be a real battle.

Wabe

November 13th, 2009
1:53 pm

From Bill Simmons on ESPN.com:

Falcons (-1.5) over PANTHERS
My top six looks like this right now: New Orleans, Indy, New England, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and Dallas. The Falcons are 5-3. Their three losses? No. 1, No. 3 and No. 6 on the list … all on the road. In other words, they might be better than we think. It’s conceivable. Meanwhile, the Panthers are 3-5, they don’t have a No. 1 pick next year, they’re one defeat away from their fan base freaking out about this and their best player (Steve Smith) blessed his quarterback two weeks ago by saying, “I just work here. If Jake’s the guy, Jake’s the guy. It’s not my call.” I think I’ll take the Falcons.

CBrass

November 13th, 2009
2:51 pm

Birdman

November 13th, 2009
3:37 pm

Hello cagers
Great things the people are doing there raising the money and all but the money is already there in the franchise as is with all organizations for these types of things . But all said and done I think its great .
Hope we win this game I Will miss the game because I will be going to a youth retreat as a sponsor with my doughtier and church .Leaving today to north Georgia .
Ya’ll keep it coming.
GO FALCONS

John Waynesworld

November 13th, 2009
6:18 pm

Hi Cagers! Well it looks like we may get a reprieve from having to face Carolina’s RB Williams. He was off Wed and Thu and he tried his knee today and apparently he is not comfortable. That is great news because ever since I saw him at Memphis, Deangelo always had a extra gear and a half. Now all we have to worry about is Steve Smith…again. I hate to say it but I am a huge Steve Smith fan. If Smith was playing in Indy, we would all be saying “Reggie Wayne who?” He is without a doubt the best pound for pound receiver in the league.

I think Mr. Turner will continue his good work and Roddy will take one deep after we give the Panthers a big dose of Ryan to Gonzalez. I would really like to see more of Mike Jenkins this weekend and maybe Marty Booker will see the end zone. If we score early, as has been the case, and we can make it a ball possession game, there will be no hope for Delhomme and the Carolina Panthers.

BT

November 13th, 2009
6:41 pm

Hi y`all.

Points number three and four are the biggest keys, IMO

Get burner on track for a big game (again) and do a good job with slowing Williams and Stewart.

I have a feeling this game is going to be some what close but Abe and Babs provide the difference with pressure on Delhome.
Matt Ryan should have a reasonably sucessful day getting the ball out to his playmakers.

Falcons 24 to 17

Coop

November 13th, 2009
7:05 pm

Evenin’ Cage. I have a feeling that we are about to explode on the NFL. I see another SF game. I think Smitty has the boys knowing this game is huge. We are going to start the 2nd half of the season by blowing out the Panthers. I’ll say 35-3. You watch, we’ll be favored in the meadowlands next week.

falcon21

November 13th, 2009
8:47 pm

I agree Coop, I think the Birds will win the game and I hope your score is close to the final but I’m thinking more like 34-17. The Birds can make a statement with this game and I think they will.

[...] The Falcons are 5-3 at the midpoint and right in the thick of the battle for the playoffs, likely not for the NFC South Crown barring a complete collapse by the Saints. Assuming they might be looking at a wild-card run, the Falcons have to keep a …Read Original Story: Task at Hand – Falcons @ Panthers Preview – Atlanta Journal Constitutio… [...]

Shawty

November 13th, 2009
10:38 pm

Went to my 1st HS football game since HS and it was pretty fun. St Pius advances.

sportaree

November 13th, 2009
10:55 pm

Hope I fall to 8-1 in my preseason prediction this week. Glad you had a good time Shawt, obviously you are still popular.

Box

November 13th, 2009
11:06 pm

sportaree,
You are perfect, so far? Wow.