It’s a bit unusual to see more than one #NFL game have a total below 40 points in a given week. The Cardinals at Commanders matchup has been under 40 for weeks and is at 37.5, which is crazy low. There is now a second game in the 30s as Panthers at Falcons has dropped from a high of 44 to 39.5 with the news that the #KeepPounding likely will be without top receivers Adam Thielen and DJ Chark.
That’s obviously not ideal for the first NFL start for Cats quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft. No. 1 overall QBs are 0-13-1 SU in their past 14 debuts and Carolina is currently +3.5 for Sunday, although we may see +4 if star defensive end Brian Burns is out as well for the Panthers. He has been “holding in” for a new contract but reportedly did practice Wednesday so he might end up playing. Burns, in the final year of his rookie deal, had a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2022.
That the #49ers signed their star defensive end Nick Bosa to a long-term contract on Wednesday should help the Panthers lock up Burns simply as he wasn’t prepared to sign before his camp saw Bosa’s numbers, not that Burns will get as much as the 2022 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and sack leader.
Carolina traded away its No. 1 wideout from last year in DJ Moore to Chicago in the deal that landed the Panthers the top pick and the chance to take Young, so it’s already a bit of a question mark position even after adding the former Pro Bowler Thielen in free agency.
He’s past his prime at age 33 -- Thielen had back-to-back 1,000-yards seasons in 2017-18 but hasn’t come close since, although his 45 receiving TDs since 2018 are tied for fifth most in the league. Thielen had 70 catches for 716 yards and six TDs last year with Minnesota but is dealing with an ankle injury and didn’t practice Thursday after being limited Wednesday.
Chark has been out for a while with his hamstring injury and while there was hope for Week 1, he hasn’t practiced his week at all. The 26-year-old is in his first year with the Panthers and caught 30 passes for 502 yards and three scores last year in Detroit. Chark had a great 2019 season with Jacksonville but hasn’t been able to stay healthy since.
If those two sit, the Carolina wide receiving group will be down to rookie Jonathan Mingo, Laviska Shenault and two others dealing with injuries in Terrace Marshall and Ihmir Smith-Marsette. That may mean a lot of carries for new starting RB Miles Sanders.
Atlanta is pretty healthy entering the opener, and it will be the debut of NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite and running back Bijan Robinson. The #DirtyBirds may run the ball more than any team in the league this year so expect low totals galore. They haven’t won a Week 1 game since 2017.
The teams split last year with each winning on the road and at least 40 points scored in each. #CARvsATL