Eye of the Panther

September 19, 2009 12:15 AM

Panthers Set To Take On Falcons

It's hard to call any game that takes place in just the second week of the NFL season a "must-win" game, but Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons comes about as close to that as you can get for the 2009 edition of the Carolina Panthers.

The Cats come into the potentially pivotal game against Atlanta having played one of their worst regular season games in years in their season opener, a seven-turnover debacle that led to a 38-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, while the Falcons come in off a somewhat lackluster 19-7 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Both teams enjoyed fine seasons in 2008, with the Panthers winning the NFC South with an impressive 12-4 record and the Falcons finishing a close second at 11-5. If they're going to duplicate those records (or even come close) in 2009, both teams are going to have play a lot better than they did last Sunday.

The Panthers played badly enough against the Eagles that their season-opening loss essentially becomes a "throw-away" game - learn what you can from your mistakes, then forget about the rest of it and move on - your season starts this week.

The Falcons, on the other hand, might be having an early identity crisis about right now. Expected to be an explosive offensive team this year, they weren't one in Game 1 as the Dolphins held both Matt Ryan and Michael Turner in check throughout the game. In contrast, an Atlanta defense viewed as potentially shaky by many around the league, played well in the 19-7 win over Miami.

So who are these Falcons??? Maybe we'll find out more about them on Sunday when they go against a Carolina defense that has been vulnerable throughout the preseason and in the Week 1 loss to Philadelphia. But their defense is likely to be tested by the likes of Steve Smith, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart.

The game projects as a good matchup between two very similar teams that run the ball well but show a lot of potential vulnerability on defense.

And it's likely to be won by the team that does the better job in terms of execution.

Certainly, the Panthers have to play better than they did last week to win this game.

The same applies to the Falcons...

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