The Falcons had a nice break after their win over the Saints nearly a week ago, and now will have to go on the road Sunday for another NFC South matchup as they play the Panthers.
Atlanta is looking to wrap up the #1 seed in the NFC, and at 11-1 they only need probably only two more wins in order to secure the seed.
The Falcons offense ranks seventh in the league in scoring at 26.4 points, it was a superb defensive display that helped the team pull out a 23-13 win over New Orleans last Thursday.
Matt Ryan completed 18 of 33 passes for a season-low 165 yards and touchdown, but the Falcons intercepted Drew Brees five times to lock up their second division crown in three seasons.
“We’ve won the division before, so it’s not that big of a deal,” wideout Roddy White said. “When coach said, ‘Congratulations,’ nobody was woo-wooing or nothing like that, which is good.”
The pressure is on the Falcons to keep playing at a high level, as they have not won a playoff game since 2004, going one-and-done in its last three appearances.
“We don’t worry about it,” said Ryan, who had four straight 300-yard games before last week. “We try not to think that far ahead. One of the things I’ve learned in my five years is that if you’re worrying about what you’re going to do in January in September, October, November and December, you’re wasting your time.”
Now they play a Panthers team that lost last week in Kansas City, losing an emotional game to the Chiefs a day after the shooting and killing of KC LB Jovan Belcher.
The Cats are 3-9, but Cam Newton continued his impressive play with 232 passing yards and a season-high three touchdowns, and ran seven times for another 78 yards. Newton has eight total TDs – two rushing – and no interceptions over his last three games.
“His outlook on things, the way he perceives things and the way he’s handled himself the last few weeks has been outstanding,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s played very well and given us chances to win. We have to take advantage of that.”
The Falcons always seem to play the Panthers close, and they need to make sure that Newton doesn’t have a big day vs the Atlanta secondary.
Look for Ryan to pick apart the Carolina secondary himself, and Michael Turner should have a nice day on the ground. The Falcons will go over 30, and win again to get to 12-1.
Atlanta 31 Carolina 23