Ah week 17 of the NFL season. Thou art bittersweet. Week 17 signals the start of the grandest time of all, playoff season in the NFL. However, for so many teams it signals the end of meaningful football for the next 9 months. As Panthers fans we have seen the ship sail on our season far too early the past several years, but not this year. It seems like this season has been such a whirlwind in so many ways. Just a little under 3 short months ago we were all discussing who the Panthers should hire as their new head coach and what to do with our inevitable top 10 pick. Now here we all sit, 10 wins and 1 loss later talking about the possibility of being a 1 seed in the playoffs and needing nothing more than a win against the struggling Falcons to clinch a first round bye. How did this all happen? Well that is a story for another article, but let’s focus on the most important game of the season, Sunday’s game against Atlanta.
The Falcons have been a very confusing team for me to dissect this year. Injuries have been a bit of a problem for them, especially early on with key injuries two their 2 biggest offensive weapons. Stephen Jackson has been a shell of his former Rams self, and it hasn’t helped that the defense may be arguably the worst in professional football. Even with all of these things, weren’t they the go to preseason pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl? Let look at how bad it has been this year for the Falcons and break down our chances in Sunday’s matchup.
The Atlanta Falcons are allowing over 28 point per game this season and it doesn’t get much better looking at just their home games. At home the Falcons are allowing 26.14 points per game. The offense is also about the same at home compared to the road. At home Atlanta scores 23.28 compared to 21.25 on the road. I guess the bright spot for Falcons fans is that the team is finally performing roughly the same in home and road games, just not the way they were hoping.
In the Falcons defense they have won 3 of their 4 games at home this season. The downside is that all of their wins have been offensive shootouts; something Carolina is proficient at avoiding. In Atlanta’s 4 victories the both teams have combined to average a total of 56.75 points with an average margin of victory of just 4.75 points.
In their 6 games against teams with defenses in the top 6 in the league, the Falcons have averaged just 14.5 points per game and have an 0-6 record.
The Panthers have played 8 games against teams that have scored more points than the Falcons this season. In those contests Carolina is 5-3 and allows just 16.5 points per game.
Atlanta has the league’s worst rushing attack, averaging just 78.1 yards per game. On Sunday they will face the NFL’s 2nd ranked rush defense which is allowing just 87.7 yards per game. On the flipside, the Falcons 31st ranked rush defense will have to find some way to contain the Panthers 11th ranked rushing offense.
For those of you that say they will just give us a heavy dose of Matty Ice I will say this. While the Falcons won’t want to roll over and concede the game to the Panthers, they also won’t want to put their franchise QB in harm’s way too many times in a game that means absolutely nothing to them. Carolina is in the playoffs win or lose, so the Falcons can only possibly play spoiler to the fact that we may not get a first round bye and home game. Even to do that they would need to win and get help. Unless they do something that has very rarely happened, score a lot of points early, I don’t think they will have the drive to fight too much for this win. If they were capable of just turning it on, why wouldn’t they have won more than 4 games this year?
Prediction: Panthers 29, Falcons 15
Feel free to discuss your take and leave your insights below as they are always welcome. As always, good luck to the Saints, I know we all hope for a clean injury-free game!