Carolina Panthers, QB Young set for season-opener against division-rival Falcons

The Panthers will travel to Atlanta for a Week 1 divisional matchup.
Bryce Young will make his first NFL start on Sunday when the Panthers take on the Falcons.
Bryce Young will make his first NFL start on Sunday when the Panthers take on the Falcons.(Erik Verduzco | AP)
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 1:11 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers are set for their 2023 season-opener as they travel to Atlanta to take on the division-rival Falcons on Sunday.

The Panthers will feature a cast full of new faces this season, headlined by rookie quarterback Bryce Young, who the team took with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.

Young comes to Carolina after two impressive seasons at the University of Alabama, where he was a Heisman trophy finalist and took the Crimson Tide to a national championship game in 2021.

Now, the hype is in full force in Carolina, with Young having won the starting job over veteran Andy Dalton early on in the offseason and putting up a solid performance in limited preseason action.

He will face off with another young, highly-touted quarterback in Atlanta’s Desmond Ridder. The Falcons selected Ridder in the first round of last year’s NFL draft, however, 2023 will mark his first season as a full-time starter.

Coaches and players have spoken all offseason to the maturity and intelligence of Young, qualities scouts raved about during the pre-draft process.

Aside from Young, the Panthers will also trot two other rookies out on the offensive side of the ball on Sunday. Wide receiver Jonathan Mingo and guard Chandler Zavala are the other first-year players expected to be in Sunday’s starting lineup.

Sunday’s season-opener will be a big moment for new head coach Frank Reich as well. Recognized as a bright offensive mind in league circles, he was hired in large part to revamp an offense that has struggled for the better part of the past half-decade. The former NFL player has deep ties to Charlotte and the Carolinas, having started the first game in franchise history and spending time as a pastor in the region.

Regardless of past ties to the team, offseason hype or anything else, though, it’s time for the team to win.

This weekend offers a chance to do that, with the Falcons nearly as inexperienced as the Panthers.

Carolina was unable to win any of its three preseason games, but with starters and impact players sitting out much of those contests, they shouldn’t hold a whole lot of stock.

The Panthers have completely rebuilt their receiving corps in 2023, having signed free agents Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, drafting Mingo with a second-round pick and bringing Terrace Marshall Jr. back into the fold.

Having those options on the outside could play into Carolina’s fortunes against a somewhat suspect Atlanta secondary, although Chark will miss the game due to a hamstring injury. That could make for bigger roles for Marshall and Laviska Shenault Jr.

Perhaps the biggest storyline leading up to Sunday’s game for Carolina is the status of star edge-rusher Brian Burns. The now fifth-year player is entering the final season of his contract and is awaiting a big payday. He sat out of practice early in the week before suiting up later on, but has made it clear he’s ready to be one of the highest-paid players at his position.

Having Burns on the field would be huge for the Panthers come Sunday.

Carolina and Atlanta both finished with 7-10 records last year, and have hopes of winning the NFC South in 2023 in what is a wide-open division following the recent retirements of Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

The Falcons enter Sunday’s matchup as 3.5-point favorites. The game kicks off at 1 p.m. on FOX.

Related: All eyes are on the QBs as the Panthers begin Bryce Young era and Desmond Ridder leads the Falcons

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