Game Predictions & Player Projections - CAR vs. ATL

David Dorey, @DMDorey

Prediction: CAR 31, ATL 23 (Line: CAR by 3, O/U = 46)

No love for the NFC champion Panthers. At 1-2, they trail the 2-1 Falcons who built their record on beating the Saints and Buccaneers (but losing to the Raiders). The Panthers lost to the Broncos in the season opener and then again in an upset last week to the Vikings. Interesting angle here - the Panthers only 2015 regular season loss was a 20-13 shocker by the Falcons in Week 16. The Panthers beat them 38-0 at home just two weeks prior to that game. The Falcons have looked great against three of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Panthers will be extra motivated this week.

Carolina Panthers

1 @DEN 20-21 10 KC ---
2 SF 46-27 11 NO ---
3 MIN 10-22 12 @OAK ---
4 @ATL --- 13 @SEA ---
5 TB --- 14 SD ---
6 @NO --- 15 @WAS ---
7 BYE --- 16 ATL ---
8 ARI --- 17 @TB ---
9 @LA ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
CAR @ ATL Rush Catch Pass
QB Cam Newton 30,1 300,3
RB C.J. Anderson 70,1 3-20
RB Cameron Artis-Payne 40 1-10
RB Fozzy Whittaker 20 5-40
WR Torrey Smith 3-50
TE Greg Olsen 7-100,2
PK Graham Gano 1 FG 4 XP

Pregame Notes: The Panthers are still trying to figure out what happened last week when the Vikings beat them handily and yet had no offense. The 1-2 record hurts since they went 14-0 last year and the offense was posting plenty of yards and points until last week. These next three games feature a run through all their NFC South rivals and then a bye comes in Week 7. Win these next three games and that 1-2 stumble won't mean anything in the long run.

QUARTERBACK : Cam Newton was held to no passing scores last week though he ran in the one obligatory touchdown. Newton already faced two of the best defenses in the league - something that never happened in 2015. But he also pasted the 49ers for 353 yards and four scores so going agianst a weaker defense still produces major fantasy points.

RUNNING BACK : With Jonathan Stewart out, Cameron Artis-Payne took the start but only managed 47 yards on 12 carries in the loss to the Vikings. Fozzy Whitaker went from 100 yards versus the 49ers to just 22 as the relief back last week. There is never any real value here when Stewart is healthy. That doesn't improve moving down the depth chart.

WIDE RECEIVER : Perhaps the most painful performance of Week 3 was when Kelvin Benjamin went from two monster games of at least 90 yards and one or two touchdowns each to failing to catch his only pass in the loss to the Vikings. Just one pass. No catches. The Vikings very successfully removed Benjamin from the equation and no other wideouts stepped up. Devin Funchess was also held to no catches. Tedd Ginn has a few catches per week but this unit is all about Benjamin. The Vikings figured that out.

TIGHT END : After a big Week 2 with a score and 122 yards, even Greg Olsen was held in check last week when he ended with six catches for 64 yards to lead the team. That is as bad as Olsen gets. And he is a lock to bounce back this week.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: This should be a fun one to watch. The Falcons have allowed at least three touchdowns to every opposing quarterback this year along with at least 280 passing yards. They rank #32 against tight ends with four scores allowed and at least 60 yards to the position even for teams that don't often use tight ends. Last week Coby Fleener burned them for 109 yards and a score on seven catches. Olsen is a must start this week.

The Falcons secondary is better than most realize but they have given up four touchdowns this year to the position and Mike Evans ended with 99 yards in Atlanta in the opener. Benjamin will not have a monster day here but he is still a must start who should score once and end with at least moderate yardage.

The Falcons have not allowed any back more than 77 rushing yards and the Panthers on the road with Artis-Payne and Whitaker won't get there.

Gaining Fantasy Points CAR 2 25 21 5 5 7
Preventing Fantasy Points ATL 32 30 23 32 6 3

Atlanta Falcons

1 TB 24-31 10 @PHI ---
2 @OAK 35-28 11 BYE ---
3 @NO 45-32 12 ARI ---
4 CAR --- 13 KC ---
5 @DEN --- 14 @LA ---
6 @SEA --- 15 SF ---
7 SD --- 16 @CAR ---
8 GB --- 17 NO ---
9 @TB ---      
News | Statistics | Roster
ATL vs CAR Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Ryan 240,2
RB Tevin Coleman 40,1 4-30
RB Devonta Freeman 40 4-30,1
WR Julio Jones 4-60
WR Mohamed Sanu 3-40
PK Matt Bryant 3 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The Falcons lead the NFL with 104 total points and that came after facing teams that did not rank very well in points against - Tampa Bay (#32), New Orleans (#31) and Oakland (#22). That all changes starting with this week since the Falcons spend the next three weeks with CAR, @DEN and @SEA. If they remain atop the NFC South after that, then maybe the Falcons will matter this year.

QUARTERBACK : Matt Ryan already threw for seven touchdowns this year and twice topped 330 passing yards. he's only had one interception and so far produces like an elite quarterback. With that schedule, there is no big surprise. Ryan injured his thumb last week but is not expected to be limited by it for this game.

RUNNING BACK : Devonta Freeman faced the #32 defense against running backs and shredded the Saints for 152 yards on just 14 carries and added five catches for 55 yards and one score. Freeman ran for 93 yards the previous week in Oakland but the only other home game was in the opener when he was held to only 40 total yards by the Buccaneers.

Tevin Coleman racked up three rushing touchdowns on the Saints but only gained 42 yards on 12 runs. he also added three catches for 47 yards and last week was as good as it could get for both Freeman and Coleman. In the home opener, Coleman was held to only 22 rushing yards though he turned in 95 yards on five catches.

WIDE RECEIVER : Julio Jones started the year with two high-yardage games with a score but was limited in practices with a calf injury. He was active and played but only caught one pass on seven targets for a 16-yard gain. Playing in New Orleans with one catch was a bitter disapointment for fantasy owners and casts some doubt as to his health for this week. I will assume that he can play with no real limitation but update as warranted.

Mohamed Sanu injured his shoulder but is expected to play this week. Sanu has not been a factor since the opener when he scored and gained 80 yards on five catches. He's been locked at just three catches for two weeks against very weak secondaries.

TIGHT END : Jacob Tamme only managed three catches for 28 yards against the Saints. He caught the only touchdown by a tight end the previous week when he had a season best 75 yards on five catches in Oakland. Austin Hooper turned in 84 yards on three recpetions in that game but then was not targeted last week.

MATCH TO THE DEFENSE: Matt Ryan faces a secondary that has not allowed more than two passing scores or mor than 243 passing yards. As it worked out, DEN, SF and MIN have not been the greatest passing offenses in the league so far. And this is played in Atlanta. But the Panthers have allowed just one score to a wideout and not more than 55 yards. Jones was clearly not 100% when he tanked last week and his practices will be telling for this game as to whether he will be healthier. The Panthers no longer have Josh Norman and Jones was fairly productive agianst them in both meetings last season.

The Panthers are most weak against tight ends but Jacob Tamme is hardly elite. The Falcons will run the ball as much as they can and should have some success with it but nothing like last week when they faced the Saints.

Consider Jones a starter (pending on positive reports) and both Coleman and Freeman at home should always be started even if they won't have monster games, they should at least produce enough to merit a start. This week will be very telling since the Falcons have feasted on a really weak schedule and all that is about to end.

Gaining Fantasy Points ATL 5 1 17 3 6 19
Preventing Fantasy Points CAR 10 13 2 26 8 30

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