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Five things to watch when Falcons face Panthers on Thursday Night Football

Only 10 days separate these two divisional opponents from the last time they faced each other. That meeting went to overtime. This meeting is shaping up to be another one for the books. 


That's how many days separate the Falcons and Panthers from the last time they faced each other. And we all remember what happened 10 days ago, right? It should still be fresh on everyone's minds.

Well, if you've hit a reset since then, that meeting went to overtime, and the Falcons won on a game-winning field goal by Younghoe Koo.


Now, they're set for another NFC South divisional showdown. Only this one's in the Thursday Night Football time slot.

Though the Week 8 game against these two teams was a wild one, this upcoming meeting is shaping up to be another one for the books. 

With all of this in mind, let's take a deeper look at this game before it kicks off at 8:15 p.m. on Amazon Prime.

Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier #25 runs for a touchdown during the second half against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, October 30, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

1. Combatting a quick turnaround

For coaches at this level, every game is a chess match. But when you're facing a divisional opponent that you just played 10 days ago in a game that went to overtime, the chess match becomes even more complex.

All three Falcons coordinators said the same thing on Tuesday: There are pros and cons to this quick turnaround. The pro? You're familiar with your opponent. The con? They're just as familiar with you.

So, what does that mean for the Falcons facing Carolina yet again this Thursday? Defensive coordinator Dean Pees said it best.

"With both staffs I think it becomes more about doing what you want to do and what you feel like you believe in with your team as much as is it about the opposing team," Pees said. "Chances are you're not going to change the whole scheme in two weeks... It's more about us, and I betcha if you're in Carolina, they're saying it's more about them than it is us."


"Here's how we have to play. Here's what we need to do," Pees said.

Again: "It's about us."

How this chess match unfolds should be very interesting to watch.

2) Left guard switch up... again

For the third time in just as many games, the Falcons will start a new man at left guard. Elijah Wilkinson won the job before the season started and has played very well for the Falcons since. However, he was placed on injured reserve last week with a knee injury.

In his place slotted Matt Hennessy, who had been working at left guard since losing the starting center job to Drew Dalman in Week 1. Hennessy held his own in his first start of the 2022 season, but a knee injury in the second half sent him to the sideline. Hennessy tried to go back into Sunday's game against the Chargers but was unable to. Colby Gossett finished out the game at left guard, and Hennessy joined Wilkinson on IR with a knee injury, as well.

Thursday night's game against the Panthers will be Gossett's second start this year. It was Gossett - not Hennessy - who played left guard in Seattle when Wilkinson had to miss the Week 3 game as he dealt with a personal matter.

Despite yet another switch up at left guard, the Falcons are not overly concerned with it, as they have been able to find consistency across the line of scrimmage even in fluctuation.

"I think the biggest thing is having a room where really every guy - and I can vouch for this - comes to work every day, works hard," Jake Matthews said of having to play beside yet another guard on the left side of the protection. "We trust them, they know what to do... and I think everyone is accountable."

Gossett has played well when he's come in in relief. He'll have another test on Thursday in Carolina.

Atlanta Falcons offensive lineman Colby Gossett #66 and offensive lineman Jake Matthews #70 are seen during the second half against the Los Angeles Chargers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, November 6, 2022. (Photo by Shanna Lockwood/Atlanta Falcons)

3. Stopping the run, and D.J. Moore, too

It's no secret that both teams want to run the ball, what with the recent success both teams have had doing so. We've already talked this week about Atlanta establishing the run through the first nine weeks of the season. But what of Carolina? Well, the Falcons should have an idea of what they'll try to do, too.

The last time these two teams met up, their rushing stats were as close as close could be.

Carolina ran for 169 yards on 36 carries, averaging 4.7 yards a carry.

Atlanta ran for 167 yards on 37 carries, averaging 4.5 yards a carry.

So, yeah. See what I mean?

Expect to see similarities in what both teams want to do on Thursday, particularly if the weather is going to be as nasty as predicted. If it is, both teams may decide they don't want to take as many chances through the air.

If Carolina does try to go that route, though, the Falcons will have to account for D.J. Moore. The Panthers' receiver was a pain in the Falcons side in Atlanta. By the end of their Week 8 game, Moore had totaled 152 receiving yards on six catches. Though one of said receptions was a 62-yard touchdown catch, even without it Moore would have been knocking on the door to a 100-yards-receiving day. Accounting for him when the Panthers look to go deep will be important on Thursday.

4. Quarterback carousel in Carolina

Though P.J. Walker has been the starter for the Panthers for the last three games, he was benched against the Bengals last week after a rough start to the game in which he threw two interceptions. Back from injury, Baker Mayfield finished the game out for Carolina.

Earlier in the week, Sam Darnold made his return to practice as he was working through injury the last time the Falcons faced the Panthers. It was looking like the Falcons would have to prep and plan for the possibility that Walker, Mayfield and Darnold could be available to the Panthers this Thursday.

Interim head coach Steve Wilks was asked about this possibility on Monday, but he confirmed that the Panthers would stick with Walker under center. His reasoning had a lot to do with 1) playing on a short week and 2) the fact that Walker played well against Atlanta two weeks ago.

This is true, too. Walker finished the Week 8 matchup with 19 completed passes for 317 yards, averaging 8.8 yards an attempt.

Don't count out an appearance by Mayfield, though, if things start trending a certain way on Thursday night. Pees isn't,

"They'll probably play two (quarterbacks) again," Pees said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday.

The Falcons are fully aware that they may see a Carolina offense - at one point - run by a different quarterback than they faced the first time around. If this happens, it'll be important to monitor how the Falcons defense responds.

5. Facing a group of angry Panthers

After the way the last matchup with these two divisional opponents ended you better believe the Falcons will get the Panthers' best. With a game that went to overtime, and a kicker who missed not one but two game-winning kicks, Carolina will be out for blood.

There's no doubt they'll be up for Thursday night's game. Heck, just take away the last game entirely if you want to. Even if the Falcons and Panthers don't go to overtime 10 days ago, this is still a big game. Thursday Night Football at home against a divisional opponent? Yeah, that's a no-brainer. They won't come out flat.

With this in mind, it's imperative that the Falcons show up with that same fire. For Atlanta, this isn't a revenge game the way it is for Carolina. For the Falcons, it's a statement game, particularly if they can play more consistently than they did upon their last face off.

The Falcons squeaked out a win at home. A decisive win is something they should be hoping and playing for on Thursday night.

We take a monochrome look at the win over the Carolina Panthers during Week 8.


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