Week 8 Game Hub: CAR-ATL


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Week 8 Game Hub: CAR-ATL

Carolina Panthers (3-4, 3-4 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (3-3, 3-3), 1 p.m.

Brolley’s Panthers Stats and Trends

  • The Panthers are on a four-game outright and ATS losing streak after opening the season 3-0 outright and ATS.

  • Carolina is 8-2 toward unders in its last 10 games.

  • Carolina managed just three points against the Giants in Week 7 and they didn’t score for the final 53 minutes of action.

  • Carolina’s offense played so poorly that HC Matt Rhule pulled Sam Darnold for P.J. Walker in the early stage of the fourth quarter. Darnold is averaging 4.8 YPA and 165.0 passing yards per game with two TDs and five INTs over his last four games, which coincides with RB Christian McCaffrey (hamstring, IR) leaving the lineup — he won’t be back this week, either. The Falcons have given up 260+ passing yards and 3+ passing TDs in 4-of-6 games, including 291/4 passing to Tua Tagovailoa last week.

  • D.J. Moore is surviving the best he can with Darnold’s play declining in recent weeks, posting 73 receiving yards in consecutive games. He’s at least had 5+ catches in every game while averaging 10.4 targets per game. Moore managed a combined 6/148/1 receiving in two matchups against the Falcons last season.

  • Robby Anderson has been miserable all season long — he hasn’t reached 11 FP in each of his last six contests — and he’s been particularly terrible the last two weeks with 25 receiving yards on 20 targets (1.3 YPT). He did post a combined 13/160 receiving on 20 targets against the Falcons last season.

  • Chuba Hubbard will get at least one more start for CMC this week, and his fantasy production (18.4>13.5>9.6) and YPC (4.2>3.8>2.3) have plummeted in three straight games with the offense heading in the wrong direction. The Falcons are giving up 4.0 YPC and the seventh-most FPG (26.8) to the position this season.

Brolley’s Falcons Stats and Trends

  • The Falcons have dominated the Panthers with a 6-1 ATS mark in this series over the last four years.

  • Atlanta outright wins and ATS covers in three of its last four games.

  • The Falcons are 4-1 toward overs in their last five games.

  • Matt Ryan has attempted 35+ passes in every game, and he’s averaging 41.8 attempts and 300.8 passing yards per game over his last five games. Ryan failed to throw for a single touchdown against the Panthers last season, combining 507 scoreless yards and two INTs. Kirk Cousins posted 373/3 passing against the Panthers in Week 6.

  • Kyle Pitts has posted 100+ receiving yards and 23+ FP in consecutive games after hanging 7/163 receiving on eight targets against the Dolphins in Week 7. Pitts finished behind only another all-world rookie Ja’Marr Chase (201 yards) for the most receiving yards in Week 7, and he became the first rookie tight end to have back-to-back 100-yard games since Raymond Chester did it for the Raiders in 1970. Pitts is sitting at a juicy +3000 odds to win the Offensive Rookie of Year award at FanDuel — Chase is the heavy favorite at +110 — and he’s stormed up to the TE4 with 14.0 FPG. He’s lining up on the perimeter at a position-best 31.6% rate, just ahead of Travis Kelce, and he’s quickly becoming Ryan’s go-to receiver with Calvin Ridley struggling. Evan Engram posted 6/44 receiving on eight targets against the Panthers last week.

  • Calvin Ridley’s difficult 2021 campaign continued in Week 7, but he at least found the end zone to salvage his fantasy production after a two-week layoff. He finished with 4/26/1 receiving on 10 targets against the Dolphins, and he played below expectations in a beatable matchup after sitting out Week 5 for a personal matter. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport revealed before the game that Ridley sat out for a “mental health break” before their bye in Week 6 — much like Eagles’ RT Lane Johnson did in recent weeks — which could explain his sub-par performance so far this season. Ridley has at least seen double-digit targets in each of his last four games, but he’s yet to break through with a 20+ FP performance this season, which he did five times last season. Ridley posted a combined 11/178 receiving on 14 targets in two games against the Panthers last season.

  • Russell Gage returned to the lineup in Week 7 a month layoff for an ankle injury, and he immediately stepped back into the #3 receiver role. He made his six targets (15%) count against the Dolphins, finishing with 4/67/1 receiving while running a route on 60% of Ryan’s dropbacks. His touchdown came from 49 yards away, more than double his previous career-long TD of 19 yards. Dante Pettis posted 5/39/1 receiving in this matchup last week as a primary slot receiver.

  • The Falcons are wasting weekly touches (14.0 touches per game) and snaps (65% snap share) on Mike Davis, who is averaging a horrific 3.2 YPC through six games. He posted a single fantasy point with 4/10 rushing against the Dolphins in Week 7 despite playing 60% of the snaps. HC Arthur Smith could give Wayne Gallman a chance to be the early-down runner at some point in the near future if Davis doesn’t start performing better. Davis had posted between 10.2-13.3 FP in each of his first five games before last week’s dud.

  • RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson is becoming the most versatile player in the league. He turned his 14 carries into 60 yards and a touchdown on a season-best snap share (73%) for the second straight game. In addition to his carries, he ran 28 routes overall with 17 of them coming out wide and six of them coming for the slot. The Panthers are giving up a league-low 15.2 FPG to RBs, but it’s difficult to consider Patterson as a traditional RB at this point.

Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies


Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.1 (17th)

Plays per game: 72.7 (2nd)

Pass: 62.8% (14th) | Run: 37.2% (19th)


Pace: 26.7 (7th)

Plays per game: 69.7 (9th)

Pass: 65.0% (8th) | Run: 35.0% (25th)

Pace Points

The pace and flow of this game is entirely dependent upon which version of Sam Darnold we’re getting. Darnold played efficient ball in the opening month (vs. Jets, Saints, Texans, and Cowboys), but has since hit a wall over their last three games (vs. Eagles, Vikings, and Giants). Just how bad has it been? Well, the Panthers have scored just 3 TDs on their last 40 drives over their last three outings… and turned the ball over 7 times (9 times if you included drives that ended on downs). Oh, and 11 of those 40 drives have been three and outs. Yikes. This team just can’t sustain offense right now and even though the Falcons are a “get right” defense, so were the Giants last week. I’m streaming Falcons D/ST in quite a few leagues.

Meanwhile, the Falcons seemed to have found their rhythm as of late. With Kyle Pitts emerging and Cordarrelle Patterson looking like a legitimate star, HC Arthur Smith is putting a lot on Matt Ryan’s plate. The Falcons are now the seventh-most pass-heavy team above expectation in neutral situations (+5%) and are No. 1 in pass rate when leading (64.3%). As a result, Ryan has thrown for at least 280 yards in four of his last 5 games and has multiple passing scores in every outing in this stretch. The Panthers desperately need their pass rush to slow down this passing attack.

Huber’s Key Matchup Notes

Why am I unconcerned that quality coverage LB Jermaine Carter could stunt Kyle Pitts’ production? Consider that Mike Gesicki (94%) is the only TE that has run a higher rate of detached routes (aligned off the line of scrimmage) than Pitts this season (81%). Travis Kelce continues to reign supreme atop the TE leaderboard in total routes run from the outside (92) and in the rate of doing so (32.7%). Pitts has run 25 fewer routes from wide (second-most), but he is an extremely close second in outside route rate at 32.4%. Why are these numbers significant? Carter has defended receivers out wide on 0.5% of his coverage snaps. And, while he’s defended the slot on 7% of his coverage snaps, he’s only defended slot receivers on 2% of snaps since Shaq Thompson injured his foot in Week 4.

Dolan’s Vantage Points

So, the Panthers will not be trading for Deshaun Watson, at least not now.

The discussion about whether any team should trade for Watson is a separate one, but from our perspective, it’s hard to expect the Panthers offense to get much better until Christian McCaffrey (hamstring) comes back, if that.

Sam Darnold was benched in Week 7 after another horrific performance, but backup PJ Walker came in and went just 3/14 in relief. So Darnold is back as the starter this week against Atlanta, and while it’s not a bad matchup by any stretch (in fact, it’s a really good one), Darnold is a bad quarterback.

Meanwhile, DJ Moore has managed to put up double-digit fantasy points in all but one game this year, which is a testament to his talent given how awful the QB play has been. And he should just keep getting fed targets, as Robby Anderson has been hilariously futile — as far as my limited research takes me (and the limitations of Stathead.com), Anderson’s 101 receiving yards on 38 targets in the last four games is the lowest receiving output with that many targets over a four-game stretch since the NFL started tracking targets in 1992. While Moore’s QB play has been awful, he’s the only reliable option his crappy QBs have.

In the backfield, Chuba Hubbard has turned into “just a guy” as CMC’s handcuff. He averaged 2.33 YPC in Week 7, down from 3.81 in Week 6 … which was down from 4.21 in Week 5… you get the idea. And Hubbard continues to not get the same passing down usage that CMC gets and Mike Davis got last season. This past week, Royce Freeman (22) ran more routes than Hubbard (18). He’s a middling RB2.

The Falcons’ offense has absolutely taken off in recent weeks, as QB Matt Ryan is throwing it aggressively, and its coinciding with the emergence of TE Kyle Pitts. Brolley broke down above just how dominant Pitts has been — he’s a WR in TE’s clothing. He might well be the TE1 going forward.

It’s a Mike Davis #RevengeGame, but despite Davis playing 60% of the snaps in Week 7 against Miami, he saw just 4 touches. He continues to lose massive volume to RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson. Here’s Graham from this week’s Stat-Pack on Patterson’s massive role:

  • Patterson’s weekly finishes over his last five games: RB4, RB19, RB1, RB17, and RB19.

  • Patterson set a new season-high in snaps (73%) in Week 7.

  • Over the Falcons last two games, Patterson has gotten more carries (28 to 17), ran more routes (54 to 45), and gotten more targets (14 to 5) than Mike Davis.

  • Patterson’s routes run as a wide receiver: Week 1 (3), Week 2 (9), Week 3 (4), Week 4 (11), Week 5 (17), Week 7 (23).

  • So, not only is Patterson getting more traditional RB work than Davis – he’s also being used way more as an actual wide receiver over his last two games.

Davis’ snap share is enough to consider him a viable FLEX, but he’s no longer in Patterson’s zip code as a fantasy asset.

Meanwhile, Falcon WR Calvin Ridley returned from a mental health break in Week 7, catching just 4 passes on 10 targets. His usage is massive, even if he doesn’t have the big numbers yet. From Graham:

  • Ridley’s macro usage is still very strong… he’s seen at least 25% of Falcons’ targets in 4-of-5 games.

  • For reference, DeAndre Hopkins has seen at least 25% of Cardinals’ targets in 2-of-7 games.

Ridley’s target share could fall a bit with Russell Gage back in the fold. He’ll be the Falcons’ primary slot receiver in a good matchup if you need a WR3/FLEX option.

Things could get a little tougher for the Falcons’ passing game this week — new Panther CB Stephon Gilmore is expected to play and CB CJ Henderson (shoulder) is questionable. LB Shaq Thompson (foot) could also return.