The first game of Bryce Young’s NFL career will be a divisional game against the Atlanta Falcons. In a battle between young quarterbacks, Young will lead a Panthers team onto the field that went 1-1 against the Falcons last season but will have a much different roster on the field this season. We’ll preview the game before going over which side I’ll be backing.
Entering this weekend, the Atlanta Falcons are tied for the youngest roster in the league with an average age of 25. Alongside second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder, the Falcons offense will feature rookie Bijan Robinson at running back along with young pass catchers Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Aside from this exciting young core, the Falcons offense features veteran Cordarralle Patterson, whose ability to do it all has led to him being listed in a “joker” role on the team's depth chart.
This young offense will look to be much more productive than last season, as the team finished 24th in yards per game and 15th in points per game in 2022. One aspect that should make improvement a big possibility is the Falcons' impressive offensive line ranked as the 7th best unit in the league on PFF. While the offense could be due for a jump, the Falcons defense remains a big question mark.
Atlanta was 26th in the league in average yards allowed per game with 362.1, but their week one matchup will not be their toughest test of the season. In front of Bryce Young is the 16th-rated offensive line on PFF, and that rating might be generous. Young has the arduous task of taking over an offense that was 29th in average yards per game last season with 306.2, but he does have some weapons around him, like Adam Thielen, DJ Chark, and Terrence Marshall Jr.
Much like the Falcons, the Panthers' defense is also a big question mark entering this season. After allowing an average of 122.6 rushing yards per game last season, the Panthers defensive line is ranked 15th in the league by PFF and will need another big season by Brain Burns if they want to improve either of those numbers.
The Atlanta Falcons are currently listed as (-3.5) point favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. Generally, I wouldn’t be jumping at short division favorites in week one, but quarterbacks taken number one overall since 2003 are 1-13 ATS in their first game, and I think the Panthers offensive line will struggle to protect Young in his debut.
Young is already dealing with injured players on the offense, with four of his receivers listed on the injury report and running back Miles Sanders set to make his season debut on Sunday despite not playing in a preseason game and only practicing due to a groin injury. Rookie quarterbacks need as much help as they can get early in their career, and it looks like Young may not have much in week one.
Atlanta’s young offense should offer a robust and balanced attack that takes some pressure off Desmond Ridder. Rookie running back Bijan Robinson is expected to do big things this season, and he’ll line up against a Panthers defense that was 18th in average rushing yards allowed per game last season. Behind Atlanta’s big men on the o-line, I think Robinson will be able to find some running room, and Ridder should have enough time to drop back and lead his team to a win.
Atlanta Falcons (-3.5)