Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/28/12

The Carolina Panthers head into Atlanta to take on a new-look Falcons' team that is playing like a true Super Bowl contender.

On the flip side, the Panthers are a long ways away from living up to their self-made preseason hype of making it to the big dance.

Heading into Week 4, the Falcons are one of three teams that remain undefeated, with the others being the Texans and the Cardinals.

While their early success should be attributed to the entire team playing at a high level, a large proportion of the credit also needs be given to fifth-year quarterback, Matt Ryan, who is playing like the league MVP thus far.

The Boston College product leads the NFL in completion percentage (72.0), passer rating (114.0), and touchdown passes with eight (tied with Ben Roethlisberger and Ryan Fitzpatrick).

In addition, he has thrown only one interception in the short season and is on pace to record back-to-back seasons of at least 4,000 yards passing.

On the other hand, the Panthers' second-year quarterback, Cam Newton, is struggling to find his groove. He has appeared indecisive in the pocket, and his poor decision making through the first three games, including five interceptions and one lost fumble, have resulted in Carolina starting the season 1-2.

For the Panthers to get back on track and challenge the Falcons in the NFC South, Newton will need to do a better job of protecting the football and sustaining drives. Panthers' fans have witnessed the potential that this guy has. It is now up to him to prove that he is not experiencing a sophomore slump.

With that said, we now take a look at three bold predictions for Sunday's matchup.

1. Matt Ryan will come out firing.

Accustomed to being a running team over the past several years, the Falcons have finally opened up the playbook and are letting Ryan fire on all cylinders. This week will be no different, as "Matty Ice" seeks to exploit a Panthers' pass defense that ranks 18th and is surrendering 243.7 yards per game.

Through the first three weeks, the Falcons' signal-caller has thrown for 264.3 yards per game, and I expect that number to increase given the fact that Carolina is allowing more yards through the air than all three of Atlanta's previous opponents (Chiefs, Broncos, Chargers).

2. The Falcons have too many weapons for the Panthers' secondary to handle.

Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez -- those are three names that the Panthers simply have no answer to. This is not to say that all of these guys are going to have breakout games, but for Carolina, it is about picking their poison.

In Week 1, the second-year wideout Jones was the Falcons' leading receiver and made the biggest impact. In Week 2, that title belonged to four-time Pro Bowler White, and in Week 3, Gonzalez set the tone and had the biggest game among the three.

The Panthers'secondary will take a beating one way or the other. We will just have to wait until Sunday to find out who does it.

3. Cam Newton will have another disappointing week.

The former first overall pick has thrown for two touchdowns and five interceptions in 2012. Interestingly enough, those numbers are identical to his career touchdown to interception ratio when he plays Atlanta.

Also, he has a record of 0-2 against Matt Ryan and Co. and his passer rating in those two losses is a terrible 56.25.

To top it off, the Falcons have the seventh ranked pass defense and are leading the league with seven interceptions.

Prediction: The Falcons win easily, 30-17.

 

 



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