Four Things to Ponder vs. Falcons
Here are four things to watch out for heading in today's game between the Panthers (5-7) and Falcons (3-9) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (1 p.m. ET / FOX, Falcons -3.5):
What's different, Part 1: Things will be different for Carolina as it will be the first game without Ron Rivera since a 31-10 loss at Atlanta on Jan. 2, 2011. Perry Fewell has been an interim head coach before, but every situation is different. How will he run a game? How will the team respond?
What's different, Part 2: Scott Turner, not Norv Turner, will be calling the plays. Will there be a larger emphasis on the run game? And playcalling around the goal line -- surely it will be more innovative than in recent weeks?
What's the same, Part 1: The offensive line for both teams has struggled all season, but especially of late. Kyle Allen has been sacked 19 times over the past four games -- including five times by Atlanta during the Falcons' lopsided 29-3 win on Nov. 17. Atlanta has allowed Matt Ryan to be sacked 15 times over the past four games.
What's the same, Part 2: The Panthers are allowing teams to rush for an average of 137.5 yards a game, the fourth-most in the NFL. The Panthers allowed Washington to rush for 248 yards, including a 60-yard run by Derrius Guice as part of his 10-rush, 129-yard, two-touchdown game. Other notable rushing days by opponents this season: San Francisco, 232; LA Rams, 166; Green Bay, 163; Jacksonville, 149; Houston, 136. Meanwhile, Atlanta's ground game is 30th in the league at 74.2 yards per game. Logic, it would seem, dictates that something has to give.