In Week 11, the Atlanta Falcons travel north to Charlotte for an NFC South division matchup against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. The two division foes have met 38 times, with the Falcons holding a 23-15 advantage in the all-time series. Falcons head coach Mike Smith owns a 7-5 record against the Panthers and is 21-18 against division opponents since 2008.
Top Matchup: Falcons DEs vs Panthers QB Cam Newton
One week after teaming up for three quarterback sacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Falcons defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann will be tasked with stopping Newton, a proven dual-threat signal-caller. While Newton is known for his strong arm, running ability and "Superman" touchdown celebrations, the Falcons' version of kryptonite will hopefully include an imposing pass rush and disciplined contain.
Under the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons CB Robert Alford
The team's interceptions leader (3), Alford will have his hands full in Week 11, trying to stop a talented Carolina receiving corps, including rookie Kelvin Benjamin. "Benjamin, he's a tall, physical receiver, has great hands and he can jump," Alford said. Look for the second-year cornerback to better execute what Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan wants, maximum physicality, minus the yellow flags.
On the Radar Player to Watch: Falcons WR Roddy White
White is 73 yards shy of totaling 10,000 receiving yards in his brilliant 10-year career. Already holding the franchise record with 9,927 receiving yards, the star wide receiver said he's more concerned about getting a win than earning personal accolades. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is sure to have White on his team's radar, hoping to prevent him from any receiving yards, especially those that could result in six points.
Number of the Game: 22. 2
Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has played three-career games against the Panthers, averaging 22.2 yards per reception, also logging three touchdowns. He's primed to continue adding to his team-leading 61 receptions for 853 yards in Week 11, expecting a better focus that could lead to his best game of the season.
**Three Keys to Victory:
1. Fast Starts are Good: Atlanta has scored 24 points on their first offensive possessions this season, including touchdowns in each of the last two games. If quarterback Matt Ryan and company can get things rolling early on Sunday, a win will be well within reach.
2. Stopping the Kuechly Factor: Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly leads the NFL with 105 tackles, spearheading a dominant Carolina linebackers group. Falcons rookie center James Stone will make his third-career Sunday, leading an offensive line that will try to limit Kuechly and company, priding itself on keeping Ryan clean, while creating paths for the team's running backs.
3. 1-0 Mentality: Each of the Falcons players have echoed their coaches, emphasizing the goal of going 1-0 each week, avoiding external distractions. The team-wide focus proved victorious last week and continued throughout their practices, leading up to Sunday's game. If Smith's team can again transfer the focus and practice-week efforts to the field on Sunday, a fourth-straight NFC South win can certainly be accomplished.