It's strange to be honest. Even though it's only the second week of the season, it feels as if we have gone through an entire season of suffering. It's probably just because of the flashback we had last game the way the season ended, but I don't know. I've grown mighty worried about this week, wondering whether or not Jake Delhomme can bounce back from this latest debacle. The fans have no trust in Jake Delhomme, and because he's still starting on our offense it's popular opinion that the Panthers are done.
The Falcons on the other hand come into this game being the huge favorites to win the game. They had their way with a Dolphins team whom many say do not look at all like the team that bounced back from 1-15 to make it to the playoffs. The Miami Dolphins could not hold onto the football. They would drive the ball downfield, and then just cough it up right back to the Falcons.
However, I did see a few things that were mighty interesting in that game. With 22 touches, Michael Turner managed just 65 yards ((3.0 average)) in spite of having an excellent QB in Matt Ryan taking the pressure off the running game behind him. Is his 370+ carries last season catching up with him? Despite the horrendous play by Jake Delhomme, the Panthers rank 1st in the nation in defending the pass. It's a strength on our team. In order for the Falcons to have a good game, they will need some help from Michael Turner.
And with that, let's count down the top offensive matchups in the week.
For whatever reason, John Abraham had an amazing year last year. Just under forty tackles and 17 sacks, he's a guy you have to keep a constant eye on when he's moving around on the O-Line. He's coming off a hot game with the Dolphins where he molested Chad Pennington, sacking him for two of his three tackles in the game fighting against a depleted Dolphins O-line. Luckily for us though, we have a talented Pro-Bowler in Jordan Gross to keep him off of Jake Delhomme and give him some time in the pocket. If he can shut down John Abraham and the pass rush he brings to the table, it will do wonders to help Jake take advantage of the Falcon's depleted secondary.
Jake Delhomme vs Two Bad Games
This could be another article in itself. Slumps are nothing new in Jake's career, but this is the worst slump we've ever seen. By now, absolutely no one believe in Jake Delhomme. Every time the ball is in his hands, fans cringe in their seats and pray to themselves that nothing bad will happen. But regardless of that, regardless of all of his epic fails and all of his mistakes, regardless of all of the negative things people say about Delhomme, if he is to begin his comeback, save his career, and get this team back in control of the NFC South it needs to start tomarrow against the Falcons. He shouldn't get the ball much, but he needs to convert on 3rd down situations, and not to the other team. If he throws another epic fail, I can't really say what will happen.
DeAngelo Williams vs John Abraham/Mike Peterson
The best direction for the Panthers to attack with the running game would be to run behind the left tackle, Jordan Gross. Williams has been historically better at not running between the tackles anyway, and behind Abraham LB Mike Peterson is arguably the weakest link on a talented LB corps. It goes without saying that the Panthers will need to depend heavily on the running game in order to win the game, and if we can milk Abraham's side of the line for 4-5 yard gains, I wouldn't care if we do it all game.
Jeff King/Daunte Rosario vs Falcon's LB's
The tight ends on our team all had a tremendous last couple of games to end the preseason. Daunte Rosario looked like the ghost of Wesley Walls whoring all of the receptions that he could. Jeff King had almost as good of a game that Rosario had, and he retains his spot since he's the better blocker. We've got weapons at TE, but due to Delhomme's latest breakdown I'm sure that they've all been completely forgotten by the fans in Atlanta. Jake Delhomme would do well to get them involved early, to give them something else to be worried about besides DeAngelo Williams running them over.
That's really all I have to say for this week. I'm not even going to make a prediction on how the game will turn out. Sure, I'm optimistic about my team. I know that we have the talent to make it to the playoffs. But still....with each and every day that this game grows closer there is a feeling of dread that creeps over you. I don't know, maybe it's just me. I hope it's just me.
You can be sure that all eyes will be on Jake Delhomme this week. Will he come back like he has in the past, or is this truly the beginning of the end of his career? We'll find out all of that and more in Week 2. That's the main storyline going into Week 2, whether you're ready for it or not.
In order for the Panthers to win this game and really run away with it, we're going to have to turn the Falcon's gameplan back on themselves. We have to run the ball better than the Falcons and stop Michael Turner in his tracks. Force Matt Ryan to win the game for his team. I think the main turning point is yards rushing for the Panthers. If Deangelo Williams can rush for 125 yards and three touchdowns, I think it'll be enough for the Panthers will win this game. I anticipate a close, quick game with the running game dominating on both sides of the football.
Get ready for some football this Sunday and keep your beer handy. You might need it.