Atlanta Falcons vs Panthers: Win and in game predictions

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 05: Justin Hardy (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 05: Justin Hardy (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /
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Writer: Erik Sandelin

Game: Carolina Panthers (11-4) at Atlanta Falcons (9-6)

Breakdown: This is easy – win and you’re in. Of course, that was the case last week ,and look what happened. However, I think this situation is different. Last week, somewhere in the back of their heads I think the Falcons thought they knew they had a mulligan if they didn’t beat the Saints, that they’d get a do-over this weekend. Atlanta was also on the road last week.

This time they’re at home, and I think that will make a difference. They were only an inexplicably dropped Julio Jones touchdown pass away from beating the Panthers in Carolina back in Week Nine, and I think revenge for that game and guaranteeing a playoff spot will be sufficient motivation for New Year’s Eve Day.

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The Falcons do need to clean up mistakes. They lead the league in dropped passes. Only four of Matt Ryan’s interceptions are his fault – the remainder are the result of tipped or dropped passes. The fumbles need to stop. Over the course of the season Atlanta has actually been pretty good at holding on to the ball, but off late they seem to be slipping, and they’re coming at the worst possible times. They need to get better at scoring touchdowns in the red zone (they 20th per Special teams also needs to tighten up, as the Falcons rank 20th in covering punt returns and dead last in covering kickoff returns.

I know Atlanta can still back in to the playoffs if the Seahawks lose to Arizona. First, I don’t think that’s happening. Two, I don’t want to back in to the playoffs, and I don’t think the Falcons do, either. I think they want to earn their spot, and I think they want to have some momentum to start the postseason. They have the incentive. They have the talent. They get it done.

Prediction: Atlanta 27, Carolina 21