No. 3: Week 8, vs Atlanta Falcons — 8:20 p.m. on FOX/NFL Network
The Panthers will play their only prime-time game of the season in Week 8 against Atlanta in what should be their easiest game against a divisional opponent. Like the Panthers, the Falcons aren’t projected by most to be serious playoff contenders, thanks in large part to the loaded Tampa Bay and New Orleans squads.
Atlanta wasn’t a great team last year, finishing just 7-9, while head coach Dan Quinn was certainly on the hot seat. Fortunately for Carolina, the Falcons were the lone NFC South foe that didn’t get much better this offseason. Atlanta reached on cornerback A.J. Terrell with their first-round draft pick and didn’t select anyone who seems to carry superstar potential. They did make two nice free-agent signings in Dante Fowler and Todd Gurley; however, it is far from certain that even they will pan out.
Despite this being an “easy” game on paper, the Panthers have really had trouble with the Falcons over the past several years. In their last nine matchups, Carolina is just 1-8 against the Dirty Birds. Hopefully, the new coaching regime and a revamped roster are enough for them to get past their I-85 rivals.
In what will likely be a crapshoot (all Thursday night games are), Atlanta’s biggest weakness is its defense. They rank at or near the bottom half of the league in almost every defensive category, and as mentioned above, they don’t figure to be much better in 2020. In two games against the Falcons, last season McCaffrey totaled 326 yards from scrimmage. As the case will be most of the time in 2020, a heavy dose of CMC could be the way to go in this one.