We continue our “Falcons 50” countdown with a look at the biggest games of the 2016 for the Atlanta Falcons. You can follow along with the full countdown here.
Falcons five biggest games of 2016 #2: Carolina Panthers, Week 4
The Carolina Panthers have a massive target on their backs. After winning three straight NFC South titles paired with an NFC Championship, the Panthers are the team to beat in this conference.
Yet the Falcons were the only NFC team to actually beat them last year, a thrilling 20-13 win inside the Georgia Dome to end the Panthers’ hopes of a perfect season. They had won all 14 of their games until that point.
The Falcons’ hopes of winning the NFC South might be slim, but they should once again be looking to at least split the series with Carolina. Three home division victories should be regarded as a minimum requirement for any team hoping to make the postseason.
Cam Newton can win in so many ways. He has a rocket launcher for an arm, and we all know how talented he is when the ball is tucked under his arm with him sprinting downfield. Newton is built like a defensive end, carries the ball like a running back but has all the tools of an MVP quarterback.
The way to stop him? The same way you stop any quarterback. Pass rush, and lots of it. Consistent pressure on Newton prevents him from escaping the pocket and making his trademark runs, but it also gives him limited time to pick out a receiver.
Kelvin Benjamin’s return from a torn ACL paired with the development of Devin Funchess will help the receiving group get better, but they still have a lot to prove.
The Falcons take on the Panthers inside the Dome much earlier on this season, and it starts a particularly difficult three-game stretch. Following a meeting with Carolina at home, Atlanta travels to Seattle and Denver in consecutive weeks.
Dan Quinn’s team can take all of the pressure off of this stretch of games by winning the first of the three.
Every division game is important, but this one carries a little more weight.