Atlanta Falcons: Can they knock off Panthers in Charlotte?


The Atlanta Falcons (6-6) will face undefeated division rival Carolina Panthers (12-0) in Charlotte. Can the Dirty Birds spoil the Panthers’ perfect season?

The Atlanta Falcons will have their first of two cracks this season against undefeated division rival Carolina Panthers when these two teams square of Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kickoff is a 1:00 PM ET and Fox will have the telecast.

Atlanta (6-6) have lost their last five games and six of their last seven since starting the year out 5-0. Carolina (12-0) is the lone undefeated team in the NFL, as every team besides the Panthers has at least two losses through Week 13.

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The Atlanta Falcons are an eight-point underdog on the road, according to, and the over/under for this game is at 46.5. OddsShark slightly favors the Panthers giving the Falcons’ eight points (52%) and the over is getting slightly better bets as well (also at 52%).

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This will mark the 41st meeting between NFC South rivals, with the Atlanta Falcons holding the series lead at 24-16. Atlanta has split their 20 games in Charlotte with the Panthers and the Falcons having 10 wins apiece in the Queen City. Though the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers 19-17 on November 16th last year, Carolina has won four of the last five games in the division rivalry.

In this game we will get the first of two opportunities to see if the Carolina Panthers are the crème de la crème of the NFC. Atlanta will host the Panthers at the Georgia Dome in Week 16. Carolina has several Pro Bowlers on their roster including quarterback Cam Newton, tight end Greg Olsen, linebacker Luke Kuechly, linebacker Thomas Davis, and cornerback Josh Norman. All five should earn recognition for their strong 2015 performances, though they would rather play in an NFC Championship than a glorified exhibition.

This matchup will feature one of the league’s best wide receivers in Julio Jones going up against the most improved defensive player in the NFL in cornerback Josh Norman. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan will have his hands full, as the Panthers always have a great front seven and Kuechly could certainly pick him off between the hash marks as the best coverage linebacker in the NFL.

However, this is a rivalry game and anything goes in these type of games. Carolina views Atlanta as their biggest rival in their 21-year existence as an NFL franchise. Some factions of the Atlanta Falcons’ fan base loath the Panthers almost as much as they hate the New Orleans Saints.

For Atlanta to win this game, they will have to do several things including, not having Matt Ryan throw costly interceptions, commit to the ground game on offense, make a big play on special teams, and not let Cam Newton extend plays with his feet.

The trick for beating the Panthers is to keep Newton out of the end zone. Once he crosses the goal line on a quarterback keeper and makes a scene in this end zone before handing the football off to a kid in Carolina blue, then Atlanta will have to deal with the crowd and the charismatic leadership style of Cam Newton. Atlanta can’t afford to let the Panthers get momentum early or this could get ugly.

Next: Julio Jones vs. Josh Norman: Who wins on Sunday?

At the beginning of the season, many felt that the Carolina Panthers were going to make the NFC Playoffs, but an undefeated 12-0 start sounded unthinkable. Carolina hasn’t lost a regular season game in over a calendar, so will the Atlanta Falcons’ play spoiler in this contest despite being in the midst of a five-game losing streak? Like all games the Atlanta Falcons have played in this season, it will be close, but the better team will end up winning on Sunday to move to 13-0.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 24, Atlanta Falcons 20