The (11-1) Atlanta Falcons travel to North Carolina to face the (3-9) Carolina Panthers for the second of their annual two games. Atlanta has already clinched the the NFC South title, but there’s still business that needs to be taken care of. They’re in prime position to win the #1 overall seed in the NFC, so these next 2-3 games will be very important. The sooner Atlanta can clinch the top seed, the sooner they can rest players and focus on building depth for the playoffs. The Carolina Panthers, even at 3-9, still feel they have a lot to prove. Greg Hardy told reporters that he thinks the Panthers are a ‘better team’ than Atlanta, and that Sunday’s rematch will be about ‘payback’ and ‘punishment’. I’m sure they’re disappointed about losing 28-30 in the Georgia Dome, in a game where they arguably put forth their best total-team effort of the season, and even though they’re out the playoff race, I’m sure they would love to put on a winning performance against one of the best teams in the NFL at Bank of America Stadium. While Cam hasn’t lit the league on fire statistically this year, he’s been playing solid football lately, cutting down on his turnovers while in-turn increasing his efficiency. They’ve played a lot of close games against some good teams, but they struggle holding on to leads, and they have a reputation of collapsing in the 4th quarter.One thing I noticed while scouting the Panthers were the injuries…The injury-bug bit this team hard. Among those injured are Chris Gamble, Ryan Kalil, and Pro-Bowl LB Jon Beason. With 12 players on injured-reserve, a lot of pressure has been on Cam to carry the team. While this experience may help him in the long run, it hasn’t payed dividends this season. Regardless, Carolina would like to go into the off-season with their heads high. A win against Atlanta would help their fans to cope with another losing season after beginning with high expectations. It’s to ESPN put the Falcons on the Week 14 upset watch. Carolina was a fumble away from beating us in September, so we better be careful with this team. They felt Matt Ryan disrespected the team by telling them to ‘Get the (explicative) off our field!!!’ after the game.
Match-ups to watch
Falcons Offensive Line vs. Panthers Defensive Line- Falcons O-line had undoubtedly their worst performance of he season against Carolina. They allowed Matt Ryan to be sacked several times. I’m sure Pat Hill will have his line prepared for the rematch, as another performance like that would all but guarantee a loss.
Matt Ryan vs. Panthers Secondary- Carolina pass defense is 8th in yards allowed, which is pretty impressive considering Chris Gamble, their best defensive back has been on injured-reseved since October. Roddy White and Julio had their worst game of the season against the Saints and will look to rebound after a extra 4 days of rest. Matt needs to be sharp and decisive throwing the football.
Cam Newton vs. Falcons Defense- Cam has been the starting QB and RB for the Panthers. While he leads the team in passing the football, he has also been their top rusher. Talk about carrying the load…In the NFL, that’s not a winning football formula. Still, they’ve won games with the arm and legs of Cam. Focus on stopping Cam and the rest will take care of itself.
Players to watch
Jacquizz Rodgers- Turner bruised his elbow against the Saints and was limited in practice. If Quizz wants to prove that he’s the feature back of the future, he will have the opportunity to do so. Good RB’s can take advantage of poor run-defenses…Carolina has a poor run-d, so I expect Quizz to make some noise this Sunday.
Roddy White- He played terrible against the Saints. Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson gave the best WR tandem in football all they could handle. The short week may have had an effect on their ‘game’, but with 4-days of rest Roddy should be energized and ready to go. Look for him to bounce back.
Tyson Clabo- He struggle mightily against Charles Godfrey the first game, as the majority of the several sacks came from the right side. McClure is the leader but Clabo is our best lineman. I’m sure he will look to redeem himself this Sunday. I surely will keep a close eye on him…
Charles Johnson- The starting RE is Carolina’s sack leader with nine. He’s also been the unquestioned leader of the defense since Jon Beason went down. He made Tyson Clabo look like a undrafted rookie the first game. Greg Hardy has the team fired up with the ‘smack’ talk he’s been dishing out, and Charles will try to hype them up even more with his play on Sunday. If he sacks Matt Ryan like he did the first game, the Falcons may have to peel Matty off the field.
Quizz has been averaging over 4.5 ypc over the last two games, while Carolina has given up 4.4 ypc against RB’s. They rank 25th in rushing yards allowed overall…Cam passer rating has been over 90 the last 3 games, but while he’s done his part, the defense hasn’t showed up to help him close games. Cam averages 5.5 ypc while Deangelo Williams has averaged a pedestrian 3.5. Stopping Carolina’s run game is stopping Cam Newton. Carolina only has 28 sacks as a team this season, one more than Atlanta’s 27.
Brandon Lafell- Listed as questionable for Sunday. He did not participate in practice.
Charles Johnson- While he was limited in practice with a bad back, he is still listed as ‘questionable’…He will play this Sunday, but he’s not at 100%, so that may be good news for Atlanta.
Peria Jerry- He will play this Sunday.
Asante Samuel- He hasn’t practiced all week, so he may not play at Carolina. Backup CB’s Robert McClain and Christopher Owens should get more playing time if he doesn’t show up.
William Moore- Hasn’t practiced in 3 days. It’s be a game-time decision.
I’m predicting another tight game for the Falcons. I haven’t predicted a Falcons loss since I’ve been at Blogging Dirty, and that won’t change this week.