Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 9/30/12

The Atlanta Falcons welcome the rival Carolina Panthers to the Georgia Dome in a crucial NFC South match-up.  The Falcons are coming off a huge win against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.  In that game, Matt Ryan completed 75% of his passes for 275 yards.  He also threw three more touchdowns while leading his team to the decisive victory.  Also leading the way for the Falcons was Michael Turner.  Turner returned to form with 80 rush yards on 14 carries while scoring one touchdown.

Possibly the biggest achievement for the Falcons came on the defensive side of the ball.  The Falcons D allowed only 3 points while limiting Philip Rivers to 173 yards on 55% completion and forcing 2 interceptions. 

If the Falcons want to prove to the rest of the NFL that they are a legit contender for the Super Bowl, they are going to have to hold the Panthers and Cam Newton in check on Sunday.

The Falcons offense comes into this game averaging just over 31 points per game.  Matt Ryan, who is the highest rated passer in the NFL, has completed roughly 72% of his passes so far on the season.  He has also thrown for 793 yards and 8 touchdowns while only throwing 1 interception.  With the Panthers defense allowing over 26 points per game, I fully expect Matt Ryan and new offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter to unleash the aerial assault on the Panthers.  

With the passing game emerging as the number one option for the Falcons, Michael Turner has seen fewer touches per game so far this season.  However, in this game I see Turner getting 20 touches and finally eclipsing that 100 yard mark for the first time this season.

The Panthers and Cam Newton are coming off a devastating loss last week against the defending Super Bowl Champs in the New York Giants.  In that game, Cam Newton completed 53% of his passes with no touchdowns and 3 interceptions.  Newton however, did add a touchdown run but only managed to gain 6 yards on only 6 carries. 

Many people thought they would be a legitimate contender for the NFC South crown after defeating the Saints earlier this season.  But after this most recent loss, the Panthers are reeling. And having veteran receiver Steve Smith call out Cam Newton might not be enough for them to turn it around and beat the undefeated Atlanta Falcons and their much improved offense and defense.

With all this in mind, I predict the Falcons to score 38 points.  Matt Ryan will have another stellar game by completing nearly 70% of his passes for over 300 yards and at least 3 touchdowns.  Michael Turner will improve on last weeks game by going over 100 yards for the first time while adding at least 1 touchdown.  Both Julio Jones and Roddy White will have big games and haul in over 80 yards a piece and 1 touchdown.

Cam Newton and the Panthers will have a solid start to the game but will not score more than 20 points.  Cam Newton himself will throw for over 200 yards and 1 touchdown.  But he will also throw 2 interceptions and fumble the ball at least once.  Steve Smith will have a solid game with over 100 yards but no touchdowns. And the Falcons will improve to 4-0 and obtain a strangle-hold on the NFC South.

Final Score

Atlanta 38

Carolina 20 

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