Previewing the Falcons – Panthers Matchup


Sep 20, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) and New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) after the game. The Giants defeated the Panthers 36-7 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

The Atlanta Falcons have their most important game of this young season on Sunday. It’s not the biggest game; the Monday night game against Denver, or the game against the Chargers would probably qualify in those categories. But since this is the Falcons first conference game, and it also happens to be a division game, there is no doubt this is the most important game up to this point.

It’s interesting to see the differing mindsets of these two teams coming in. The Falcons seem humble despite their 3-0 record, sparkling offensive play, and fantastic defensive play. The Panthers have been humbled in matchups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and after being obliterated by the New York Giants on that national stage that is Thursday Night Football. One team seems to be locked in and focused on winning; the other seems to have a fractured psyche, as well as a fractured locker room.

Highlighting this issue is rumors that have surfaced that Carolina QB Cam Newton has been seeking out a sports psychologist, which Newton has vehemently denied. His head coach, Ron Rivera, has been seeing one for the past 13 years, perhaps an indicator that seeing a psychologist isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of doing anything it takes to help win.

On the other hand, the Falcons are looking extremely decisive offensively, and led by QB Matt Ryan, seem to be hitting on all cylinders. The defense is coming up with stops, something they haven’t done in years past, but is also creating turnovers by the bushel.

That’s not to say that the Panthers won’t have a boat load of confidence coming into the Georgia Dome Sunday afternoon. They have a bunch of talented players on both sided of the ball, and have the pieces in place to score in a hurry. Even on the defensive side there are play-makers at all three levels: DE Charles Johnson, MLB Jon Beason, CB Chris Gamble, and SS Charles Godfrey.

Carolina can be a dangerous team if they are in the right mindset. The question is, can a struggling team with chemistry problems go on the road and beat up on a 3-0 division rival who looks to be potent on both sides of the ball, and ready for all comers? The Atlanta Falcons need to continue to take care of business and not take any team lightly. If they keep that mindset, they won’t lose to the Panthers.