This game got me questioning who exactly the Panthers biggest rival in the NFL is so I decided to put up a poll in the right side bar on that topic. Please weigh in if you are a fan. It's still early but the results so far show the Falcons as the Panthers biggest rival.
Okay, when you think of the NFL's great rivalries I'm sure Panthers-Falcons doesn't jump to the forefront of your mind. If you're a fan of either of these teams then it should. The Panthers have only been around for 13 seasons but they have played the Falcons (and Saints) twice a year from the start. The Falcons lead the all time series 16-10 including a 7-5 record on the Panthers home turf. Even more surprising is the road team has won the last five meetings between the two.
Little King will be providing an individual match-up analysis for this game later but I have some other high level musings to discuss about this key division match-up:
Since CB DeAngelo Hall was traded to the Raiders in the off-season we won't get to see another Steve Smith - DeAngelo Hall catfight this season. Remember these two really got into last year in the first game resulting 3 or 4 personal foul penalties. Smitty got the best of it as Hall had a complete meltdown and essentially gave the Panthers a TD. I wonder which CB Smitty will try to goad into a temper tantrum this time (my guess is Chris Houston)?
- That was the same game Panthers QB Jake Delhomme suffered his elbow injury at the hands of a John Abraham sack that ended Jake's (and the Panthers) season. LT Jordan Gross gets the honors of trying to prevent a repeat this year (perish the thought)
DE John Abraham sizes up his next meal...err sack
- The Falcons also let long time Panther nemesis TE Algae Crumpler walk in the off-season. You might remember Crumpler catching the winning TD with 20 seconds left in their second match-up last season. That loss was the nail in the Panthers coffin in 2007. Current Falcons TE Ben Hartsock has only one catch in three games so the TE is no longer a threat in Atlanta (lets hope)
- Falcons WR Roddy White easily leads the Falcons WR corps with 11 catches for 232 yards (a 21 yd avg). He is a deep ball threat the Panthers must contain. I find it hard to root against Roddy since he hails from the local High School where I live and my daughters currently attend, James Island Charter High School. Go Trojans! (My oldest is a senior and Captain of the girls varsity soccer team)
CB Chris Gamble shows how big his heart is!
- Though the Falcons are 2-1 they are still not getting much respect considering their two wins came against arguably the two worst teams in the league, the Lions and Chiefs. You can argue the Rams belong in there somewhere but the point is well made. They need to win this one to prove to their fans they will be worth watching this year.
- The Panthers game planning for the Falcons will be quite different from seasons past given the conviction of Michael Vick. I'm sure DC Mike Tyrgovac is relieved in that regard as rookie QB Matt Ryan is a pure pocket passer.
- If you check the injury report you'll see Falcons LT Sam Baker listed as questionable. So yet again DE Julius Peppers may be facing a back-up or a rookie at best. Need I say more?
- The Falcons lead the league in rushing so obviously stopping Turner ‘the Burner' is a priority. The Panther defense matches up well in that regard.
So let's hear from you Panther fans. Is this a true ‘rivalry' in the mold of other NFL rivalries?