In a display of unparalleled southern hospitality, the Carolina Panthers have graciously invited their I-85 rivals to Charlotte this Sunday. The best franchise in NFC South history* will host the Atlanta Falcons to thank them for erasing from the public mind our disappointing finish to the 2015 season. That said, Carolina’s gratitude will only see them to the door. After that, Cam Newton and company have business to attend to.
These two franchises have deep similarities throughout their history that have built and fueled a rivalry that is, to be honest, probably pretty well equaled across the NFL. Both teams have had undeniable successes during the tenure of their most recent quarterbacks. Both quarterbacks have struggled to be recognized by the media for who they really are; Cam as a generational talent who commands the respect and loyalty of his locker room and Matt Ryan as a well-meaning signal caller who was finally able to win a play-off game after his team drafted Julio Jones.
Both franchises have endured two heart-breaking Super Bowl losses in their histories and, ironically, are the two teams in the NFC South who have yet to win the big game. Deeper than that, both of those losses for each team came against the same opponents: the Broncos and the Patriots. How’s that for serendipitous bad luck?
All of those commonalities have led to some heat being generated between two teams that are more like brothers than enemies. As with any pair of brothers that look a little too much alike, they struggle to distance themselves. However, I don’t expect that to be the case for much longer. At some point the laughably obvious difference in quarterback talent has to make for a serious difference between the teams. With both squads boasting decent defenses this year, that point may come sooner rather than later. If you doubt that then consider that the Falcons almost lost to the Jets yesterday.
Cam won’t be the only difference between the squads this year, either. The Falcons have long struggled to generate consistent pressure on defense, while the Panthers picked up a 37 year old Julius Peppers who didn’t realize his peers have all retired and sipped ice tea while watching him rack up half as many sacks as Atlanta’s entire team so far. I’m sure there are plenty more reasons as to why we will get to laugh politely at the Falcons this Sunday, sound off in the comments with anything I forgot.