Originally written on The Sports Headquarters  |  Last updated 9/30/12

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08: Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons against the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Right now, Matt Ryan is head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL in the MVP race. Granted, they’ve only played three games but it seems like he has refocused and started utilizing all of his weapons surrounding him on offense. Cam Newton, on the other hand, has struggled mightily thus far in 2012. With his Panthers off to a 1-2 start and coming off of an embarassing loss at the hands of the New York Giants, Newton needs to prove he is not in early stages of a sophomore slump. Even if the Panthers fall to Atlanta, Newton must put points on the board. Carolina’s offense has been mediocre at best this season and even a hard fought game in a losing effort would be better than another ugly defeat.

What Carolina Must Do in Order to Win This Game

It needs to be a total team effort from the Panthers tomorrow if they have any hope of winning this game. The defense cannot expect Cam Newton to bail them out and, in the same regard, Newton cannot assume his defense is going to step up and shut down the Falcons’ passing attack. Everyone on Carolina needs to play an above average game. From the offensive line to the safeties. As of right now, the Panthers lone win comes against a winless, turmoil-laden Saints team. Not exactly impressive.Their losses have come against a decent Tampa Bay squad and a banged up Giants club. Moving to 2-0 in the division while climbing back to .500 could prove to be a turning point for the Panthers at the quarter mark of the season. They need to treat this game as if their season was on the line (which it is not in the least). Allowing the Falcons to get to 4-0 while the rest of the division is 2-2 or worse is a tough hole to dig this early. Might as well start making up some ground now.

What Atlanta Must Do in Order to Win This Game

The Falcons’ offense has been the best in the NFL through the first three weeks of the 2012 season. After dismantling the Chiefs, the Falcons whooped on the Broncos before handling the Chargers. I’m sure the AFC West is counting their blessings that the Falcons are not in the division, at least this year. Now, the Falcons return to Atlanta for their second home game of the season to face their first divisional opponent. Carolina’s defense has been less than stellar to say the least this season. Matt Ryan, in front of his home crowd, should be able to do whatever he wants on offense all game long. For Atlanta, it will come down to their defense. Will the Brent Grimes injury ever catch up to them? Has Asante Samuel returned to the top tier cornerback of yesteryear? Will John Abraham drunkenly wander into a crime scene for the halftime entertainment? These are questions that need answering and I fear only two of the three will become more clear come Monday morning. (Personally, I’m pulling for the latter more than the former).

Final Prediction

38-21 Atlanta. I love the Panthers. I really do. In fact this marks the first time I’ve picked against them all season. But my eyes do not deceive me. Until Newton shakes off his struggles, the Panthers’ defense plays a solid 60 minutes, and Ron Rivera proves to me that he trusts his running game, I can’t pick the Panthers all willy-nilly. Just isn’t my style. Besides, other than the Texans and Cardinals, no team is playing better than Atlanta as of right now. The Falcons will remain undefeated and Ryan will continue his MVP level of play for at least one more week.


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