Friday, December 27, 2013

Panthers a sure thing over Falcons? Not so fast

I have heard from many jubilant Panther fans this week celebrating the fact that the team will finally win the NFC South and host a home playoff game in January after a heart-pounding win over New Orleans a week ago.
That celebratory tone is understandable. But it's also premature.
The Panthers have to beat Atlanta in Atlanta first (the above picture shows how they must do it -- their swarming defense needs to be huge). The Falcons are 4-11 -- the mirror image of Carolina's 11-4 record -- but they have many of the same players that got the Falcons to the NFC championship game only one year ago.

As Panther offensive tackle Jordan Gross said: "The Atlanta game now is bigger than the New Orleans game was because it's got everything on the line. And playing the Falcons at Atlanta is never an easy game for us."

-- Gross understated that fact. The Panthers have lost five straight to Atlanta on the road. It's been so long that the last time Carolina has won in Atlanta was 2007.

-- One of the most memorable Panther wins in Atlanta came in 2006. Chris Weinke only threw the ball seven times and had an astoundingly low 32 passing yards, yet Carolina won, 10-3, because the Panthers controlled the ball for more than 41 minutes and DeAngelo Williams repeatedly ran out of the wildcat for first downs on third-and-short.

-- Now it's 2013. I wish the Panthers would drop the wildcat formation entirely from their offense. Every time they line up in it, I go ahead and write down a one-yard gain in my notebook before the play is run. And Williams is in his eighth season. But one thing hasn't changed -- the running back will be a key Sunday. A Panthers win would guarantee at least the No.2 NFC playoff seed, a first-round bye and a home playoff game either Jan.11 or 12.

-- Prediction time -- and time for a look back, courtesy of alert reader of John Wilkins of Denver, N.C. Wilkins writes: "In the 2013 Panthers Kickoff Preview dated Sept.7th, you predicted the Panthers to go 10-6 where Tom Sorensen predicted 8-8. Tom said in his prediction that if the Panthers go 11-5, he would buy golf shirts in mauve, taupe, and lavender.... I think Tom needs to get coordinating golf pants if we win next week to go 12-4."

Agreed. Tom's all-black Johnny Cash wardrobe is nothing if not consistent, but it could use an update. Here's hoping the pants he buys are lavender, too.

My pick: Carolina 24, Atlanta 13.

The Panthers led Atlanta only 17-10 entering the fourth quarter Nov.3 at Bank of America Stadium, but then scored 17 fourth-quarter points to win going away, 34-10. Here Cam Newton scores a TD vs. the Falcons -- Newton will play with an ankle that is not 100 percent Sunday.


Anonymous said...

Falcons start out strong but lose their momentum but even so Panthers cannot give them an inch due to their QB and favored WR.

Most importantly Rivera and the Panthers know they still have work to do.

Anonymous said...

Agreed: Lose the wildcat. It's a waste of a play.

Anonymous said...

Good post Scott. The Falcons have been playing impressively lately. I could see them winning this game, and I know they would relish the opportunity to play spoiler. The Panthers should approach this game like it's a road playoff game--winner goes home. That should be their mindset.

Poor Panthers--they can't ever "take a deep breath." It's one must-win game after the other to win this NFC South crown--but, that said, they can take a deep breath for two weeks if they take care of business in Atlanta.

Unknown said...

People think this is a "sure thing" over the Falcons. Like Lee Corso says, "Not so fast my friend". Panthers should win this game. Similar situation happened when the Panthers played Miami. Can't overlook this game.

Kevin McDonald said...

I wouldn't understate the significance of Atlanta playing across the country on Monday night, with a holiday on Wednesday. That's a super short week, with several key injuries, to prepare for the Panthers.

I think it will be a close game but the Panthers will keep pounding and break through as the NFC South Champs!

Anonymous said...

Some people can see the Falcons winning this game?!! Please- I wouldn't go THAT far. They're
4-11 for a reason, folks. The Falcons will probably be charged up and start strong, like the MNF game vs. the 49ers. But then they'll realize who they are and then fade. Panthers will run the ball hard and finish strong on D. They will pull away by at least a couple TD's.
final Score: Panthers 31-14.

Anonymous said...

Maybe beating the Falcons isn't a a "sure thing", but it's pretty close. I'd say there's a 85-90 percent chance they'll beat them. If we beat NO without Smitty and with Cam gimpy, we should definitely beat the Falcons. Panthers need to run the ball a lot at ATL's 21st ranked run defense and get Ted Ginn the ball a lot.

Sportsdon said...

Lose the Fade pass as well it is just a waste of a red zone opportunity. Newton misses it badly every time.

Anonymous said...

Also should consider putting the bubble screens and WR screens towards the bottom of the list. Panthers just have not mastered them well enough to run them consistently.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Advertised Newton's ankle is not 100% but he said himself! it's a non-issue. He's fine.

par said...

No sure win is correct. For not the one play Falcons nearly beat the 49ers last week. I am sure Gonzales would like to exit with an impact.

Anonymous said...

This game is about earning the division crown and bye, and possibly 1st seed. Win the game and those are yours for the taking. Lose it and you get leftovers.

Execute, limit turnovers and stupid penalties, convert the 3rd downs (takes team effort). It's all about focus.