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


ATLANTA (AP) — The Carolina Panthers begin a new era with Bryce Young as the face of the franchise.

Just the sort of hype one would expect for the NFL's No. 1 draft pick.

There's far less hoopla surrounding Atlanta's quarterback, though the Falcons have equally high hopes for Desmond Ridder in his first full year as the starter.

These two young signal-callers will be at the center of attention when the Falcons host the Panthers in the season opener Sunday.

With Frank Reich taking over as coach, Carolina pinned its rebuilding hopes on Young, who won the Heisman Trophy during a brilliant career at Alabama.

Young isn't thinking beyond Week 1.

“I'm a not a huge long-term guy,” he said. “It’s never just straight up. There’s going to be ups and downs.”

Ridder was far from a top pick. Even after a stellar college career at Cincinnati, he slipped all the way to the third round in the 2022 draft.

Ridder spent most of rookie campaign as a backup to journeyman Marcus Mariota before taking over for the final four games of the year. He guided the Falcons to a 2-2 mark, showing enough promise to lock down the No. 1 job for 2023.

For now, this is Ridder's team.

“I've prepared for this moment and where I need to be,” he said.

These NFC South rivals have followed similar paths in recent years. Neither has had a winning record since 2017, which was also the last season either made the playoffs.

Now, both franchises are counting on young quarterbacks to lead them to a brighter future.