Atlanta Falcons: The future of Kyle Shanahan and Thomas Dimitroff

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Nov 16, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White (84) catches a touchdown pass as Carolina Panthers free safety Thomas DeCoud (21) defends in the third quarter. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 19-17 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

How can the Falcons beat the Panthers?

AF: Put simply: they can’t. At no point this year have the Falcons ever put forth the level of play that is required to beat a team like Carolina. But for the sake of argument, the key for the Falcons will be to shorten the game.

A good example of this is what the Falcons did to the Denver Broncos in their Monday Night Football matchup back in 2012, where the Broncos fell into a hole early thanks to three interceptions from Peyton Manning in the first quarter, and the Falcons were able to hang on for the last three quarters to pull out the victory.

That was probably a game that if it had just lasted two minutes longer, the Broncos would’ve pulled off the comeback. The Falcons are going to have get the Panthers into a hole early with turnovers and a fast offensive start (which has been rare in 2015), rely on their rushing attack to control the ball and keep Newton off the field and hope their pass rush and defense can limit the explosive plays the Panthers have been able to generate with relative ease this year.

That’s their formula for success, but as I started before, there really isn’t much evidence based off the first 14 games of the 2015 season to suggest that the Falcons are capable of pulling off such an improbable upset.

What’s your prediction for the game and why?

AF: I still expect the Panthers to win with relative ease. My hope is that unlike last time, the Falcons will at least make it interesting and can keep it somewhat close for a quarter or two. Based off the last game, losing by “only” 20 points would be substantial progress for the Falcons.

Ultimately I don’t see how the Falcons can score enough points against the Panthers defense, given how effective Josh Norman has been over the years at containing Julio Jones. And if Jones is eliminated from the offense, then there’s really nothing the Falcons can do offensively that should scare a defense as good as Carolina’s.

Defensively, I think the Falcons will fare better and won’t give up as many big plays early as they did last time, but if they can’t find a way to pressure Cam Newton, then there’s really not much you can expect the defense to do. Right now, I’ll go with 27-10 in favor of the Panthers.