Panthers-Falcons “Preview”

So we’re at the last game of this forgettable season for the Carolina Panthers and this Sunday, face a familiar opponent in the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. The Falcons are one of the best teams in the NFC while the Panthers are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Falcons looking like they could be dangerous in the playoffs, Panthers have the #1 pick in the upcoming draft. To add to that, the Panthers announced that John Fox, along with the entire coaching staff, will be gone after the game. Does this mean that Carolina will roll over for the Falcons tomorrow or fight with all they can to win John Fox’s last game in Carolina? I’m thinking it’ll be the former but hopefully I’m wrong.

Anyway, I’m going to be brief with the preview of this game since I don’t see any need to breakdown key players and matchups in a game that’s basically meaningless to the Panthers. First pick is already locked up and we know for sure that the coaching staff wont be there next year so what’s the point of worrying about this game? Well, the Falcons have clinched a playoff spot but they failed to lock up the NFC South and home field advantage by losing to the Saints on Monday night. All they have to do to win the South is beat the Panthers and the pundits everywhere have been saying the Falcons will win easily. How awesome would it be for Carolina to win and spoil the Falcons playoff hopes (sorta)? We all know it’s highly unlikely that it will happen but there’s definitely some meaning behind this game and that is playing the spoiler role.

Keys To Victory

Being 14.5 point underdogs in this game, pulling an upset seems almost impossible. In the unlikely event that it happens, here’s what has to go right for the Panthers and wrong for the Falcons.

– Shut down Michael Turner. The Saints held Turner to 48 yards on 17 carries last week. Carolina needs to do something similar.

– Don’t turn the ball over. Carolina has one of the worst turnover differentials in the league, Atlanta has the best. You figure it out. The Falcons did fumble twice against New Orleans last week and that definitely had a factor in them losing that game so Carolina needs to take advantage of turnovers if they get them. The problem is that it may not come often and Carolina has been terrible at capitalizing off turnovers this season.

– Keep big plays to a minimum. The first time these two teams played, Roddy White had a pretty solid game but didn’t have a lot of huge plays. Captain Munnerlyn did a decent job covering him so he will need to have a similar performance this week. However, guys like Harry Douglas, Michael Jenkins and Tony Gonzalez will have favorableĀ  matchups against our defense so that’s going to be a problem.

– Beat Atlanta through the air. Yep, I’m putting the game in Jimmy Clausen’s hands again which usually isn’t a good thing. Running the ball well isn’t going to single-handily win games for us, Clausen has to make a play sooner or later. It’s looking like his days in Carolina are numbered depending on what we do in the draft but this is his last chance to make an impact and he needs to make the most of it. Atlanta’s corners are good but beatable. Brent Grimes has been targeted more than Dunta Robinson and thus, has more interceptions but he’s prone to make a mistake so be aware of that.

Think that’s all I have to say. Enjoy the game and let’s hope for a miracle and spoil things for Atlanta.


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