The Carolina Panthers visit the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17 of the 2017 NFL season. PFF previews the top player matchups of the game.
PFFELO Ranking: 10
Coverage by: Mike Manning
Matchup: Carolina Panthers offense vs. Atlanta Falcons defense
- RB Christian McCaffrey vs. LB Deion Jones – The Panthers rookie running back is the third-highest graded receiving running back in the league with a 91.9 grade. This season McCaffrey has become the first rookie running back to eclipse the 400 snaps in route mark since PFF began recording the stat in 2006. Like Le’Veon Bell though, McCaffrey has used volume over efficiency to reach his high receiving statistics. McCaffrey ranks second among running backs in targets at 98 but only 25th in yards per route run with 1.49. He has proved to be reliable with only one drop this season on his 76 catchable passes, the best drop rate among running backs with at least 40 catchable targets. Jones is the second-highest graded coverage linebacker in his sophomore season with a grade of 91.9. But he does have the second-most missed tackles in the passing game this season with 11.
- WR Devin Funchess vs. CB Desmond Trufant – Funchess is having a career year in nearly every category, including his overall grade of 74.8 overall grade. One of his biggest improvements have been in the red zone, where Funchess has a passer rating of 109.8 when targeted. Compare that to last season, where his passer rating when targeted in the red zone was a mere 47.1. Trufant has struggled this season in the red zone, allowing four of his six touchdowns and a passer rating of 108.0, as compared to him allowing a 85.2 rating everywhere else on the field.
- G Amini Silatolu vs. DI Grady Jarrett – Silatolu was able to bounce back against the Buccaneers in Week 16 after a less than stellar performance taking over for the injured Trai Turner in Week 15. He earned the sixth-highest run-blocking grade, 86.4, among all guards last week. But he has struggled in pass protection, allowing five pressures in the past two games. Jarrett has continued his strong playoff run last season with a career-high 86.9 overall grade this season, including a run-defense grade of 87.3. Jarrett’s 24 run stops this season is already a new career-high and ranks ninth among defensive tackles.
Coverage by: Bill O'Brien
Matchup: Atlanta Falcons offense vs. Carolina Panthers defense
- WR Mohamed Sanu vs. CB Captain Munnerlyn – Sanu is having a good season and currently has the 16th-most yards from the slot out of 63 qualified wide receivers (429). Munnerlyn has been a player that opposing offenses have targeted with success. The veteran cornerback has allowed a 120.6 passer rating when targeted, which ranks 48th out of 56 qualified cornerbacks in passer rating allowed from the slot.
- RB Devonta Freeman vs. Luke Kuechly – Freeman has been the best running back on the Falcons this season, but he will be in for a tough matchup this weekend. He ranks tied for 13th in overall grade among running backs at 83.0. The Panthers will look to Kuechly to slow down Freeman. The Panthers' savvy veteran has earned the third-highest overall grade (93.7) among qualifying linebackers.
- T Jake Matthews vs. Edge Mario Addison – One way the Panthers can help Munnerlyn with his tough matchup against Sanu is by providing pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan. Addison has been a solid contributor for the Panthers this season and currently has the highest pass-rush productivity (10.7) on the team this season. Addison rushes almost exclusively from the defense’s right side, meaning he will be matched up mostly against Matthews. The Falcons offensive tackle has been playing well as of late and has increased his overall grade to 80.4, which ranks tied for 16th among all tackles.