The Week 10 schedule of NFL games begins with a divisional battle that many did not expect to be this important before the season began. The Atlanta Falcons will make the short road trip over to Carolina to play the NFL South rival Panthers. Atlanta lost a back and forth contest to the Los Angeles Chargers at home on Sunday, falling by a final score of 20-17. Meanwhile, Carolina was routed on the road by the Cincinnati Bengals 42-21 in a game that was never close.
As both teams look to get back into the win column, here are three things we’ll keep an eye on Thursday night.
Of course, these franchises played one another only two weeks ago in a tilt that was one of the best games of the season. Down six points late in the fourth quarter, Carolina quarterback P.J. Walker uncorked a 62-yard touchdown pass that wide receiver D.J. Moore came down with after dusting two defenders. It was a miraculous play that kept the Panthers’ hopes for a playoff spot alive.
The only problem was, Moore took off his helmet after celebrating the score, and was flagged for a 15-yard penalty. This backed up the extra point try for kicker Eddy Pineiro, whose miss sent the game into overtime. Pineiro would miss another short field goal in the extra period, paving the way for Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo to convert the game winner.
Carolina Sticks With Walker, For Now
It feels like there is a strong chance that we will see more than one quarterback under center for Carolina on Thursday night. Walker had an impressive showing against Atlanta two weeks ago, but followed it up with a dismal performance against the Bengals. He only threw for nine total yards and was intercepted twice.
Baker Mayfield came into the game in relief of Walker on Sunday, and was much more effective, completing 14/20 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns. Interim head coach Steve Wilks has confirmed that Walker will get the starting nod against the Falcons, but do not be surprised to see Mayfield in the mix early if Walker struggles.
Panthers Running Game
During the Week 8 contest, one Panthers running back made the trade of Christian McCaffery seem a lot more bearable. That’s because D’Onta Foreman did whatever he pleased on 26 carries out of the backfield. He scampered for 118 yards and three touchdowns, which perhaps was a main reason why Walker played as well as he did that day.
However Foreman, like the rest of his Panthers teammates, came crashing back to Earth against the Bengals. The new starter only ran for 23 yards last week, as the offense struggled to get anything going. It’ll be interesting to see how Foreman fares against Atlanta this week, who will likely be very determined to do whatever it takes not to be embarrassed on the ground again. The running back’s ability to move the chains may be the single most important factor determining who wins the game.