Carolina Panthers Vs. Atlanta Falcons: Defensive 'X-factor'

Grant Halverson - Getty Images

There's one player who means more to the Panthers' defensive chances, and he's far younger than you might expect.

Josh Norman, I hope you ate your Wheaties this week.

During preseason I wrote about how the Carolina Panthers had no answer for WR Julio Jones. This was a receiver who took mammoth steps during the off-season, who Jerry Rice was in awe of in Falcons camp, and a receiver who dismantled the Baltimore Ravens in preseason. At that time I was chided by scores of fans (now silent) who believed that Munnerlyn and Norman would be enough... they were, and are wrong.

I never thought Ramses Barden was an all-pro until last week, when against Josh Norman he looked like the second-coming of Tim Brown. Norman was unable to out-muscle the Giants' receiver, and when that happened it was a long night. Julio Jones is stronger, faster, and more athletic, and when paired with the referees returning, Norman won't be able to get away with pass interference– his one chance to one-up Jones.

Move Chris Gamble over, and now you have Roddy White on a 5th round rookie; I'm sure that will be great. It's not that Norman is bad, he's just a rookie, and makes rookie mistakes. It's not his fault he's in the situation, but he's going to get his lunch eaten.

Edge: Falcons

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