1. The no-spin zone: Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson, who is on injured reserve after having left knee surgery, posted a picture on social media of himself running.
The Falcons (3-4) are set to face the Panthers (2-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
“1 step closer!!!!,” Patterson’s post read.
There is a four-second video of him running in a straight line pulling a weight.
“I didn’t post my workout yesterday,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said on Wednesday. “I think I need to post my workout. No, we’re happy. I’d imagine he’s pretty close. He can’t technically come back until next week. Hope to get him back, sooner than later. I’ll be excited when he’s back. I’ll start posting my workout videos.”
This will be the fourth game that Patterson has missed. He could return against the Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 6.
Patterson was off to the best start of his career rushing the football. He ran for a career-high 120 yards on 22 carries in the season-opening loss to the Saints on Sept. 11.
In the third game of the season, he topped his career high with 147 yards rushing in a victory over Seattle on Sept. 25 and was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
With Patterson out, Tyler Allgeier, Caleb Huntley and Avery Williams have stepped forward to keep the rushing attack moving.
The Falcons are averaging 156.9 yards rushing per game, which ranks fourth in the NFL.
Patterson’s return also could help the passing attack, which has been ineffective. The Falcons rank 31st in the league in passing yards with 151.7 per game.
Along with his rushing yards, Patterson had caught four passes for 28 yards.
2. Desmond Ridder watch: AJC columnist Michael Cunningham has weighed in on the quarterback situation. He has concluded that now is not the time to play rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder.
3. Marlon Davidson’s departure: The Falcons held out hope that Marlon Davidson’s balky left knee would get better.
But Tuesday they moved on from the former Auburn player, who was drafted in the second round (47th overall) of the 2020 NFL draft.
Davidson was taken four picks before the Cowboys selected cornerback Trevon Diggs, who has 17 interceptions, and six picks before the Eagles selected quarterback Jalen Hurts.
4. Secondary blues: The Falcons are likely going to face the Panthers without three opening-game starters in the secondary.
Right cornerback Casey Hayward is on injured reserve. Safety Jaylinn Hawkins is in the concussion protocol, and A.J. Terrell has a hamstring injury.
Darren Hall took over for Hayward against the Bengals, and Dean Marlowe went in for Hawkins at safety.
The Falcons can move Erik Harris to nickel back and play Isaiah Oliver outside at cornerback. Oliver and Mike Ford are listed as Terrell’s backups on the team’s official depth chart.
Also, nickel back Dee Alford has a hamstring injury.
Carolina’s P.J. Walker is completing 70.5% of his passes (31 of 44) and has thrown for 297 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Walker played at Temple from 2013-16. He went undrafted and was with the Colts’ practice squad from 2017-19.
He went on to play five games for the Houston Roughnecks in the XFL before the league folded.
Walker completed 16 of 22 passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns in the 21-3 upset of the Bucs on Sunday. He finished with a passer rating of 126.5.
5. What to expect Sunday: The Panthers have a respectable defense.
But they’ve had to stay on the field too long because the offense ranks last (32nd) in the league in time of possession, at 25 minutes, 36 seconds per game.
Linebacker Shaq Thompson is the team’s leading tackler, with 46. Linebacker Frankie Luvu and safety Xavier Woods are tied for second with 36 tackles.
Brian Burns leads the Panthers with five sacks, and defensive tackle Derrick Brown anchors the line and has 28 tackles and four quarterback hits.
6. The return of Wilks: Steve Wilks, who was with the Panthers from 2012-17 as an assistant under coach Ron Rivera, took over as the interim coach after Matt Rhule was fired after a 1-4 start.
In his first game, Wilks had to send wide receiver Robbie Anderson to the locker room and later traded him. The Panthers also traded running back Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers for a bushel of draft picks.
The Panthers relied on the play of Walker and a rushing attack to upset the Bucs.
Running back D’Onta Foreman rushed 15 times for 118 yards, and Chuba Hubbard added 63 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
McCaffrey had most of the carries for the Panthers through six games. Foreman was with the Falcons for part of the 2021 season before surfacing back in Tennessee, where he performed well after Derrick Henry was injured.
Foreman rushed for 566 yards and three touchdowns in nine games for the Titans.
Wide receiver D.J. Moore has had at least 1,100 yards receiving in each of the past three seasons. He has 27 catches for 273 yards and two touchdowns.
7. HBCU connection: Wilks, who started his coaching career in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities ranks at Johnson C. Smith and Savannah State, was the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals for one season in 2018.
While the Panthers are coming off a big win, the Falcons are looking to rebound from a 35-17 spanking from the Bengals.
The Falcons are preparing for Walker to continue at quarterback for the Panthers.
“I think he is a very tough-minded player,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “It seems like he’s got pretty good pocket presence. You can see why guys are confident when he’s in there.”
Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (ankle) and Sam Darnold (ankle) are not likely to face the Falcons.
8. Tale of the tape: Here’s how the Falcons and Panthers match up statistically:
2022 season rankings
Falcons / Panthers
23.3 (12) points per game 17.7 (26t)
308.6 (27) Total offense 271.9 (32)
156.9 (4) Net Rush yards/Game 102.1 (23)
151.7 (31) Net Pass yards/Game 169.7 (28)
29:32 (21) Possession Avg. 25:36 (32)
24.4 (24) Opp points/Game 21.3 (17t)
406.9 (30) Opp Total offense 351.9 (18)
100.3 (5) Opp Rush Yards/Game 120.9 (21)
306.6 (32) Opp Pass Yards/Game 231.0 (19)
2 (10t) Turnover Differential -2 (21t)
9. Depth chart: Here’s a look at the Falcons’ depth chart:
QB – Marcus Mariota, Desmond Ridder
RB – Tyler Allgeier, Caleb Huntley, Avery Williams
FB – Keith Smith
WR – Drake London, Bryan Edwards, Jared Bernhardt
TE – Kyle Pitts, Parker Hesse, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt, Feleipe Franks
LT – Jake Matthews, Chuma Edoga
LG – Elijah Wilkinson, Colby Gossett
C – Drew Dalman, Matt Hennessy
RG – Chris Lindstrom, Colby Gossett
RT – Kaleb McGary, Germain Ifedi
WR – Olamide Zaccheaus, KhaDarel Hodge, Damiere Byrd
OLB – Lorenzo Carter, DeAngelo Malone
DE – Grady Jarrett, Timothy Horne
NT – Abdullah Anderson, Timothy Horne
DE – Ta’Quon Graham, Matt Dickerson
OLB – Ade Ogundeji, Arnold Ebiketie, Quinton Bell
ILB – Rashaan Evans, Nick Kwiatkoski
ILB – Mykal Walker, Troy Andersen, Nathan Landman
CB – A.J. Terrell, Isaiah Oliver, Mike Ford
FS – Jaylinn Hawkins, Dean Marlowe
SS – Richie Grant, Erik Harris
CB – Darren Hall, Dee Alford
K – Younghoe Koo
P/H – Bradley Pinion
LS – Liam McCullough
KR – Avery Williams