A post-draft look at the Falcons’ 2017 opponents: The Panthers, Game 16

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs the ball under pressure from the Dallas Cowboys during a NFL football game, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

FLOWERY BRANCH — A look at the teams on the Falcons’ schedule and how they have reconstructed their roster since the season’s end. We’re up to regular season finale against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Dome.

GAME 16: CAROLINA PANTHERS

Carolina Panthers at Falcons  at 1 p.m. Dec. 31

No longer with the Panthers: S Tre Boston, DE Kony Ealy, DT Paul Soliai and RB Mike Tolbert.

Key free agent signings/pickups: LB Julius Peppers, LT Matt Kalil, CB Captain Munnerlyn, WR Russell Shepard, SS Mike Adams and WR Charles Johnson.

Carolina Panthers’   2017 NFL draft

1 8 Christian McCaffrey RB Stanford
2 40 Curtis Samuel WR Ohio State
2 64 Taylor Moton G Western Michigan
3 77 Daeshon Hall DE Texas A&M
5 152 Corn Elder CB Miami (Fla.)
6 192 Alex Armah FB West Georgia
7 233 Harrison Butker K Georgia Tech

Weaknesses: The Panthers’ wide receiver corps and the secondary are both weak links. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is battling weight issues and Devin Funchess has been a disappointment. The secondary will welcome the return of Munnerlyn and  they are hoping Peppers still has some gas left in the tank.

Strengths: Steve Wilks, the former secondary coach, was promoted to defensive coordinator to take over for Sean McDermott, who was named Buffalo’s head coach. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula will figure out how to integrate the news weapons added through the draft.

Comment: The Panthers went from 15-1 to 6-10 and missed the playoffs after playing in Super Bowl 50. Quarterback Cam Newton had offseason rotator cuff surgery. The Panthers picked up Newton, who needs to cut down his running activities, a few new weapons in McCaffrey and Samuel. Three-time All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly missed six games with concussions issues. His return to form is key to any revival in Charlotte.


FALCONS SCHEDULE

Exhibition season

Falcons at Miami Dolphins at 7 p.m. Aug. 10

Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers at 4 p.m. Aug. 20

Arizona Cardinals at Falcons at 7 p.m. Aug. 26

Jacksonville Jaguars at Falcons at 7 p.m. Aug. 31

Regular season

Sept. 10 at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m., Fox

Sept. 17 Green Bay Packers, 8:30 p.m. NBC

Sept. 24 at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. Fox

Oct. 1 Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 8 BYE

Oct. 15 Miami Dolphins, 1 p.m., CBS

Oct. 22 at New England Patriots, 8:30 p.m., NBC

Oct. 29 at New York Jets, 1 p.m., Fox

Nov. 5 at Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

Nov. 12 Dallas Cowboys, 4:25 p.m., Fox

Nov. 20 at Seattle Seahawks (Mon) 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Nov. 26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 3 Minnesota Vikings, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 7 New Orleans Saints (Thur), 8:25 p.m., NBC/NFL Network/Amazon

Dec. 18 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Mon). 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Dec. 24 at New Orleans Saints, 1 p.m., Fox

Dec. 31 Carolina Panthers, 1 p.m., Fox

THE FALCONS 2017 DRAFT

MUST READ PROFILE: Falcons top pick McKinley makes name for himself

2017 Falcons report card: Falcons earn a B-plus

NFC Champs add a pass rusher, quality depth 

1st rounder: Meet defensive end Takkarist McKinley

3rd rounder: Meet linebacker Duke Riley

4th rounder: Meet offensive guard Sean Harlow

5th rounder: Meet defensive back Damontae Kazee

5th rounder: Meet running back Brian Hill

5th rounder: Meet tight end Eric Saubert

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