Atlanta Falcons: Breaking down the 2015 division games

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Aug 22, 2015; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) runs after making a catching a pass while Miami Dolphins linebacker Chris McCain (58) pursues during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers

Last year, the Atlanta defense couldn’t generate pass rush on a high school offense and they were consistently burned by good teams. This season, it should be strong enough to put pressure on quarterbacks regularly, and this could spell trouble for the Panthers.

Carolina will look to run the ball first, so it will be important to keep Jonathan Stewart and the ground game in check. Cam Newton is dangerous when he gets outside of the pocket, so ensuring he isn’t able to enjoy big plays with his legs will be a key to the game. Making Newton a pocket passer and forcing him to throw is critical, especially with no 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin ready to make plays.

Losing Benjamin for the year after tearing his ACL in practice is a devastating blow for the Panthers, and it tilts the favor Atlanta’s way. Offensively, the Falcons have the firepower to put up points against the tough Panthers defense. Outside of Julio Jones, Atlanta now has Leonard Hankerson and Justin Hardy to contribute. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman will also be expected to give the ground game a jolt of life.

Sans Benjamin, the Panthers will struggle to move the football in the air, and his loss makes me feel the Falcons can steal a series sweep.

Prediction: Sweep

Next: Should the Falcons make a move for Kam Chancellor?

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