Atlanta leads the series with Carolina 23-12 and have been victors in the last six straight games. In the last six games in the series the Falcons have scored 31 points five times and 30 points once. In the last outing against the Panthers, the Falcons won 30-28 in the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons head into this game at 11-1 and 5-1 on the road. If you were an outsider looking in you would think that the Falcons were the Alpha Dog of the NFL but the Falcons have had to fight tooth and nail for their victories and are still fighting for respect.
The Panthers come into this game at just 3-9 but have won two of their last five. The Panthers are just 1-5 at home and are looking at playing some of their younger players a bit more in this game. Everything points to a Falcons victory in this one but in the NFL the saying "Any Given Sunday" is true and the Panthers are a team that the Falcons will need to watch out for. We already talked about this being a trap game for the Falcons, so let's take a look at a couple of storylines coming into the game….
– Both William Moore and Asante Samuel missed practice on Friday and are both questionable for the game. The Falcons did okay last week after Samuel left early in the game and the back-up CBs have gotten some good experience early this year but not having William Moore would be big as this most likely would leave Chris Hope as the safety next to Thomas DeCoud.
EDIT: Asante Samuel is active for the Falcons today but William Moore is not. Chris Hope will start in place of Moore.
– Panthers DE Greg Hardy seems to think the Panthers are better than the Falcons and he wants to "mess up their whole playoff experience". One thing is for sure and that is that the Panthers defensive line was better than the Falcons offensive line in the last meeting as Carolina got to Mat Ryan for seven sacks. That will be a key match-up in this meeting.
– The red zone offense for the Falcons wasn't very good in the last meeting getting TDs on just one of four trips. Matt Ryan went 25/40 for 369 yards and Michael Turner had 103 yards rushing on just 13 carries (and also caught a TD pass). Roddy White went for over 100 yards and 2 TDs. With those kind of stats, the Falcons should have put the Panthers away. Watch the red zone offense in this one as it will be another key.
– In the last game, the Panthers had three players run for more than 40 yards with all of those players averaging at least four yards per carry. They also had 2 TDs on the ground. Stopping the run and containing Cam's ability to make plays with his feet will be very important.
– Lastly, the Panthers TE Greg Olson killed the Falcons with six receptions on seven targets for 89 yards and one TD. The Falcons have struggled this year with athletic TEs and the Panthers will surely try to use Olson early and often.
– To go back to the Greg Hardy point from earlier, apparently the Panthers are mad that Matt Ryan told them to get the fuc* off his field after the game earlier this season. Looks like some the Panthers are taking this one personally. The only thing the Panthers have left to play for is pride, let's see if they have it in them.
Prediction: Falcons 31 Panthers 24