Winning in the division. It’s everything in the NFL.
The Panthers have struggled within the NFC South. It’s no secret around these parts. In fact, Carolina has failed to post a winning record within the division since 2015.
When it comes to the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers have not won a game against their I-85 rivals since November 2017–over two years ago.
Two weeks ago, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was on the hottest of hot seats, with his team spiraling out of control at 1-7. However, a dominant performance at New Orleans last week has opened up some eyes, and has given Atlanta some hope for the second half of the season.
It’s no secret what the Falcons like to do: pass the football. Atlanta has the most pass attempts in the league (2nd in passing yards/4th in touchdowns). However, it appears a pair of prominent weapons will be sidelined against Carolina.
Tight end Austin Hooper, Atlanta’s leading receiver, is unlikely to play as he recovers from a knee injury. Hooper was on pace for over 1,100 yards and has already grabbed six touchdowns this season, leading the team.
Meanwhile, veteran running back Devonta Freeman will likely miss Sunday’s game in Charlotte due to a foot injury. His 38 receptions ranks third among all Falcons this year, and his violent running style will be a significant void for Atlanta.
Despite Freeman’s injury, Panthers fans shouldn’t sleep on his replacement. In fact, they should remember him fairly well. His name is Brian Hill, a third-year journeyman currently in his second stint with the Falcons.
The last time Atlanta traveled to Charlotte, Hill absolutely lit up the Panthers’ run defense. Week 16, 2018: a mere eight carries led to a 115-yard explosion on the ground.
That’s over 14 yards a pop.
Last week, Hill ran hard against the best run defense in the league: 20 carries for 61 yards. He also caught a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan in the Falcons’ 26-9 stunner over the Saints.
We wanted to take a closer look at what Atlanta does from a schematic standpoint offensively. You’ll see some similarities from what they’ve done in the past, but with the absence of Hooper and Freeman, I would expect to see some 10/00 personnel (4W/5W).
So how did Atlanta get back on track offensively? Let’s find out in today’s edition of Film Room: