The Atlanta Falcons don’t necessarily need a win in Week 2, but the team could be in a lot of trouble if they fail to come away with a victory Sunday afternoon. Close to 90 percent of teams that start the year 0-2 don’t make the playoffs, and that’s the record Atlanta will own if they don’t defeat the Carolina Panthers at home.

Expectations are high for the Falcons in the 2018 NFL season, and failing to reach the playoffs would certainly be a disappointment. Despite playing in a loaded conference, Atlanta entered Week 1 among the NFC teams with the best odds to win Super Bowl LIII.

The Falcons’ championship odds are still twice as good as that of the Panthers, though Carolina is a game ahead of their rivals in the early NFC South standings. Atlanta lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 18-12 on “Thursday Night Football” in the season opener, and the Panthers took care of business at home by beating the Dallas Cowboys 16-8.

For those that believed the Falcons would improve upon last season’s divisional playoff exit, Week 1 might’ve served as a wakeup call. Atlanta looked exactly like the team that fell short of making the conference title game, moving the ball with consistency between the 20s but failing to convert in the red zone. The Falcons lost on the road to the Eagles in nearly identical fashion when the two teams met in January.

Matt Ryan went 21-43 for 251 yards, no scores and one interception at Lincoln Financial Field. His overall numbers were severely damaged by his lack of production in the red zone, where the quarterback failed to complete eight of his nine pass attempts.

Matt Ryan Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons signals during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 6, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Atlanta’s red-zone issues weren't simply part of a bad night or the result of playing the defending champions in a hostile environment. The Falcons have had difficulty scoring touchdowns ever since last year when Steve Sarkisian replaced Kyle Shanahan as the offensive coordinator. They were one of 10 teams that failed to turn at least half of their red-zone opportunities into touchdowns, and it’s why they finished the 2017 season ranked sixth in yards per play but just 15th in points.

Carolina’s offense didn’t exactly have a big Week 1, either. The team won largely because of their effort on defense. Cam Newton was held to 161 passing yards. Only four other teams had fewer total yards than the Panthers.

A unit that was already struggling lost two key players against Dallas. Tight End Greg Olsen  and offensive tackle Daryl Williams both suffered injuries that will keep them sidelined for some time. The Panthers are already without left tackle Matt Kalil, who is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Falcons aren’t completely healthy. Pro Bowl safety Keanu Neal tore his ACL against the Eagles, and Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones is now on IR because of a foot injury.

All of this could add up to another close, low-scoring matchup for the divisional opponents.

According to the latest betting odds at OddsShark, Atlanta is a six-point favorite and the over/under is 44.5 Carolina is 8-3 against the spread in their last 11 road games.

Prediction: Atlanta over Carolina, 20-17