The Atlanta Falcons face a considerable task on Sunday as they face a "rankless and tagless" Carolina Panthers team that's brimming with confidence and self belief. It's likely the Falcons will look to shut down a dangerous passing attack, but there is a bigger threat in Cam Newton's running game as the Falcons contend with injured linebackers and a run defense allowing 4.6 yards per carry.
Newton's best ground games happened against Atlanta. Few will forget his 116 yard day from a year ago, but across the board he has risen to the occasion against and gashed them on the ground.
32 carries, 285 yards (8.9 yards per carry), three touchdowns
The Falcons have never held Newton below 5.0 yards per carry, an astonishing number they'll be cognizant of. Allowing this many yards lets the Panthers extend drives, particularly on third down while taking pressure off Cam to win with his arm. He has struggled to find passing consistency against Atlanta, where Newton has posted two games with a quarterback rating better than 100, and two worse than 70. The run game steadies him, and the entire offense.
Stopping the passing game might be the focal point, but it could be a long day for Atlanta if they don't respect his legs. Newton has torched them in the past and with more freedom at the line of scrimmage we could see the Panthers exploit the matchup throughout the day.