Here's my prediction on how things will go Sunday at 1 p.m. at Bank of America Stadium when Carolina and Atlanta play. If you're a follower of my predictions, you know not to set too much stock in what you read here. The best thing that can generally be said for my predictions lately is they don't cost you any gas to read:
** I like what coach Mike Smith has done with the Falcons, who actually look like an NFL team again. They run the ball well enough that rookie quarterback Matt Ryan isn’t getting in a lot of third-and-12s, where most mistakes happen.
** I wrote a column advocating the Panthers’ acquisition of Falcons’ running back Michael Turner back before the start of free agency, and I still believe he would have been the best alternative for Carolina. That guy is for real. It’s true, though, that Turner’s price was sky-high.
** Think the Panthers’ offensive line might pay a little attention to where No.55 is today? Not only does Atlanta’s John Abraham lead the NFL in sacks (with six), but he also was the one who sacked Jake Delhomme and caused the season-ending elbow injury that wrecked Delhomme’s 2007 season.
** Let’s not get overly carried away about the Falcons’ 2-1 start. In Kansas City and Detroit, they’ve beaten two of the worst NFL teams out there. The one time they played a decent team – Tampa Bay – they lost by 15. I think the Falcons will ultimately finish with 6-7 wins this season.
** Being the home team in this series has never meant much, but the Panthers have a bit more talent than the Falcons overall. My prediction: Carolina 20, Atlanta 13.