Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Preview: Q&A With Panther Maven

Dave Holcomb

The Atlanta Falcons host the Carolina Panthers in Week 14 on Sunday. Kickoff will be at 1 pm ET.

To preview the matchup, we sat down with Scott Hamilton of Panther Maven:

Q: The biggest news from this week regarding the Falcons was the firing of Ron Rivera after nine seasons. What was your initial reaction to the decision to move on at head coach? Is now the right time and what benefits do the Panthers organization receive by making the move during the season? I was stunned by the timing, but not the move. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time -- even before this season. New owner David Tepper wants to put the team on a different path and really place his fingerprints all over everything. And while the timing doesn't seem perfect, it actually makes the most sense for both sides. The Panthers and Rivera can both pursue other opportunities -- Carolina targeting candidates without having to circumvent Rivera and Rivera can speak to other parties about possible jobs without fear of tampering.

Q: Carolina also made a change at offensive coordinator. Norv Turner's son, Scott, will take over playcalling duties for the first time in his career this Sunday. What can Falcons fans expect from Scott's playcalling this Sunday and why was a change necessary?

That's a good question. I have to think a bigger emphasis -- if not a reimagined -- run game. Carolina has recently gone long stretches where it's been pass, pass, pass regardless of success rate. I also have to think the playcalling near the goal line will be more creative and dynamic.

Q: The future is murky at quarterback for Carolina. Kyle Allen's season started very well, but he hasn't been playing as well lately, and the Panthers have lost four straight. What direction would you like to see Carolina take at quarterback in 2020?

There's no easy answer to that because everything starts with one piece of information -- the health of Cam Newton. He'll be 31 in May, but if he's healthy he's still a top-tier quarterback and an elite weapon. But more to consider after that is his contract situation. He's playing at a relatively franchise-friendly rate of about $19 million per year that expires after next season, but will be able to command much more when that deal is done. Will Carolina part ways before next season, save millions in cap money and totally reinvent itself at quarterback? Or will it keep its wagon hitched to Newton (assuming his healthy) and then prepare to pay up after next season, perhaps in the $30 million range?

Q: The Falcons are the only team that hasn't posted 100 rushing yards against the Panthers this season. Could Atlanta struggle running the ball again Sunday and still win as it did in Carolina three weeks ago?

Definitely. Especially if Carolina turns the ball over and doesn't protect Allen -- both things that fueled Atlanta's win last month at Bank of America Stadium. And it doesn't take a 100-yard game to do a team in -- just one big run at the right moment. Atlanta, really any NFL team, is capable of that against any defense.
Prediction for the game?

Emotions will be all over the place. Interim coach Perry Fewell seems to have the locker room, so that 's encouraging for Carolina. But there's still the unfamiliarity of what Scott Turner will call and how the players will react. Of course, that goes both ways and Atlanta will have a more difficult time scouting out patterns, etc. However, I like Atlanta's defense, especially when the front is playing to its potential. 

Falcons 24, Panthers 17.

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