Thoughts entering the 4:15 p.m. Panther-Falcon game at the Georgia Dome Sunday:
** One of Carolina’s most impressive defensive performances of the season so far came against Atlanta. In that 24-9 victory on Sept.28, the Panthers never let the Falcons in the end zone, allowed Michael Turner only 56 rushing yards and gave up just 158 passing to rookie Matt Ryan.
** I think Carolina’s defense will be the biggest key. That performance against Detroit seemed so out of character – to give up 22 points to the Lions?? C’mon. I think Carolina would need to keep Atlanta to 17 or fewer points in this one to win.
** Watch what Atlanta does with Muhsin Muhammad in this game. He had 147 yards receiving in the last game, but the Falcons have retooled their secondary since then and they’ll pay far more attention to him this time.
** If Jake Delhomme has a third straight bad game, then this isn’t just a hiccup. This is an actual trend.
** Atlanta, in third place in the NFC South, really needs this one. Like the Panthers, the Falcons have been far better at home than on the road this season.
My prediction: Atlanta 20, Carolina 17.