In five career games against the Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has compiled 19 receptions for 317 yards and three touchdowns with a 3-2 overall record. With the Falcons desperate for a victory at 6-6 after dropping an astounding five games in a row, this could be the week where they shock 12-0 Carolina with a large dose of Julio Jones in the flat, on the outside and especially in the redzone.
After watching Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense add 29 of the 38 points scored in a loss to Carolina last week, Matt Ryan has to be excited about the big play potential out there against a suddenly beatable Panthers defense. Brees delivered three touchdown passes, including throws of 54, 24 and 14 on the afternoon.
However, Ryan and the Falcons offense has been more than inept as of late especially in the redzone. They went 1-of-3 in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay.
“Well, I think number one, the biggest fix for us, from the percentage while you looked at it, was the turnovers,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s where it started, so we improved in that area, but there are still opportunities for us to go and attack. We’re going to find ways to do that.”
Ryan has 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the year and it’s been very disappointing under first-year Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He has running back Devonta Freeman back and healthy, Julio Jones is a complete handful and rookie running back Tevin Coleman, kick returner/receiver Devin Hester should get a chance while rookie wideout Justin Hardy has a chance to carve out a big future role. Roddy White is still around too.
Jones has been targeted 10 or more times in all but two games this season. Due to injuries, Jones sat out 2013 and he hasn’t scored a touchdown against Carolina since 2013. In 2011, Jones proved how gifted he really was with three grabs for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
He’s been held without a touchdown over the past four games, but prior to a loss to Minnesota two weeks ago, Jones topped 100 yards in three straight weeks to open November, totaling 31 receptions for 459 yards and a touchdown. Atlanta has to find a way to get him the ball as much as possible in every realm of the game. Josh Norman will shadow Jones all day long, but that doesn’t mean that the 6’3″, 220-pound Jones can win plenty of jump ball situations.
On the season, Jones has 102 receptions, 1,338 yards and six touchdowns even with Ryan struggling in key situations of the game. With Seattle holding down the No. 6 spot in the NFC wildcard race at 7-5, the Falcons are at No. 8 behind Tampa Bay.
From week to week in the NFL you never know what can happen and this is one of those games that wouldn’t shock me if Atlanta upset undefeated Carolina on the road. Jones is the key to this game, the Falcons defense will try to get off the field and slow down the Panthers effective rushing attack, but the Atlanta offense is the lifeblood of this team.