Week 8 NFL Power Rankings and NFL Week 7 Recap PFN’s Senior NFL Analyst Matt Williamson (Former NFL Scout and ESPN Analyst) released his Week 8 Power Rankings following the games on Monday Night Football in Week 7. Where do the Falcons and Panthers fit in the NFL’s hierarchy? Be sure also to check out Mike Tanier’s NFL Week 7 Recap. This week, Mike breaks down some studs and duds from the Week 7 slate, talks about playoff contenders/pretenders (including the Panthers), and more. Who plays on Thursday Night Football tonight in Week 8? Game: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Location: Charlotte, North Carolina at Bank of America Stadium How to watch Thursday Night Football tonight in Week 8: Start Time, TV Channel, and Live Stream Date: Thursday, October 28th NFL Thursday Night Football Start Time, Week 8: 8:20 PM ET Channel: NFL Network and FOX What to expect from Falcons vs. Panthers? The 1-6 Falcons are better than their record. They have elite offensive talent in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, combined with a defense that is better than what we have seen this year. The team is coming off another heartbreaking loss that all but eliminates them from NFC South contention. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers are a surprising playoff contender. They sit at 3-4, only two games out of the second playoff spot. If they want to continue their surprising run, they need to beat the Falcons for a second time this season. They were able to squeak out a 23-16 victory a few weeks ago, but the Falcons were without Julio Jones. With Jones back in the lineup, the Falcons have one of the best skill position groups in the NFL. Jones, Ridley, and Todd Gurley have all proven to be huge offensive threats. Gurley and Ridley combined for 257 yards of offense in the first meeting between these two teams. It’s unlikely the Panthers are going to hold the Falcons’ offense back again. If they want to win this game on Thursday Night Football tonight in Week 8, Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady will need to pull out all the stops. D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson have been impressive so far this year, and they combined for 205 yards receiving in the last game against the Falcons. However, they can’t be the only players providing offense for the team. Matt Rhule’s squad has only topped 30 points twice this season. The big difference in those games was a strong running game to complement the pass. Look for the Panthers to try a balanced offensive attack before taking big shots to their star receivers. Luckily for Carolina, there is a chance that star running back Christian McCaffrey could make his return on Thursday night. If McCaffrey is healthy enough, should you start him in your fantasy lineup? We have all the information you need to know in the link. Final Prediction: Panthers win 27-24 The Falcons will look to get back on track as they travel to U.S. Bank Stadium to take on the Panthers on Thursday Night Football in Week 8. Atlanta holds the all-time series advantage, 32-19, including five of the past six matchups against Carolina, although the Panthers won the most recent matchup, 23-16, in Week 5. WEATHER FORECAST Here’s the current forecast for Carolina on Thursday, according to The Weather Channel: Rain High/low: 79/56 50 percent chance of precipitation 88 percent humidity WHAT TO LOOK FOR Matt-riculating the ball down the field: Since the Week 5 matchup against Carolina, Matt Ryan has completed 61-of-82 passes (74.4 percent) for 709 yards, five touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 120.4 passer rating over the past two games. Ryan will look to continue his hot streak on Thursday Night Football, having passed for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns in each of his past two games played on Thursdays. Ryan has also played well in Carolina, posting a passer rating of 110-or-higher in four of his past five on the road against the Panthers. Eight games in: Thursday’s game will mark the halfway point of the 2020 season for the Falcons, and with a rushing touchdown, Todd Gurley would surpass Michael Turner (seven in 2011) and Warrick Dunn (seven in 2004) for the third-most rushing touchdowns through the first eight games of a season in franchise history. Only Michael Turner (10 in 2009) and Devonta Freeman (nine in 2015) had more. If Gurley finds the end zone on Thursday, he would also tie Pro Football Hall of Famers Eric Dickerson and Randy Moss (78) for the seventh-most touchdowns through a player’s first six seasons in NFL history. Ju’s House: Julio Jones missed the Week 5 matchup with Carolina due to injury, but since his return in Week 6, he has recorded 16 receptions for 234 yards and two touchdowns. The 10th-year receiver has 12,572 career receiving yards and needs 89 receiving yards on Thursday to surpass Torry Holt (12,660) for the second-most receiving yards through a player’s first 10 seasons in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (13,275) had more. Familiar foe: Last week, Calvin Ridley notched his sixth touchdown reception of the season and the 23rd of his career since joining the NFL in 2018. With the touchdown, he surpassed Andre Rison (22) for the most touchdown receptions through a player’s first three seasons in franchise history. Ridley will look to continue his success against Carolina. In five career games against the Panthers, Ridley has recorded 28 receptions for 509 yards and four touchdowns.