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by Sharon Thorsland

NFL: NOV 06 Panthers at Bengals

For the second time in less than two weeks it’s the Panthers taking on NFC South foe Atlanta, this time in a prime time match-up on Thursday Night Football. The Falcons are 4-5 on the season after a last second loss to the Chargers, while the Panthers are coming off an ugly performance against the Bengals that dropped them to 2-7 on the year.

The Falcons offense has improved dramatically since the first time these teams played – running back Cordarelle Patterson returned from injured reserve last week, and made an immediate impact, picking up 44 yards and two touchdowns. “Flash” is also a threat at receiver and kick returner, and that makes him dangerous. “He’s a dynamic play maker,” said Panther corner back Donte Jackson. “You can put him anywhere and he can give a defense fits. We’ve got to know where he is at all times.”

Patterson elevates a rushing attack that is averaging 163 yards per game, that’s 3rd in the NFL. Rookie Tyler Allgeier has been outstanding, he has over 400 yards and a score. And don’t forget about quarterback Marcus Mariota – the veteran is a dual threat who can hurt you with his arm and his feet, he’s got nearly 1900 combined yards and 13 touchdowns. That’s not good news for a Panther defense that got gashed in the run game by the Bengals last week and has been allowing over 139 yards a contest. Throw in tight end Kyle Pitts and several solid receivers, and you’ve got a pretty darn good Falcons offense.

The Panthers offense was terrible last week, but P.J. Walker and company are confident they can rebound against the Falcons. They know what to expect from this Atlanta defense, which is excellent against the run but awful against the pass, allowing a league worst 300 yards per game. They’re aggressive though, with 13 takeaways on the season, and have plenty of talent. All-Pro defensive tackle Grady Jarrett anchors the front line, and veteran Lorenzo Carter and Adetokumbo Ogundeji put plenty of pressure on the quarterback. The Falcon’s secondary remains dinged up, with several key players on the sidelines including Pro Bowl corner backs Casey Heyward and A.J. Terrell. But Panther receiver D.J. Moore expects another solid effort from this group. “They look the same pretty much,” said Moore. “They’ve got a few new coverage’s in there but for the most part they look the same, and they’re playing aggressive. It’s going to be a battle.”

Things went down to the wire in the last game, with the Panthers losing a heart breaker in overtime. Both teams are somehow still in the running still in the running the for the NFC lead. The Panthers can pull within a game of the Falcons with a win, and exact a little revenge on the prime time stage. “Absolutely, just the opportunity to go out there and play on Thursday night in front of the world, there’s gonna be a lot of guys hyped up,” said Walker. “The energy is gonna be there, we just have to go out and take advantage of it and have fun.”