Atlanta Falcons look to enact revenge on Carolina Panthers


The Atlanta Falcons have lost their last two games to NFC South rival Carolina Panthers in embarrassing fashion, hoping to pull off an upset at home in Week 16.

The Atlanta Falcons have put up a grand total of three points in their last two games against NFC South rival Carolina Panthers. Atlanta suffered a blowout loss at home in Week 17 with the division title on the line in 2014. Carolina has not lost a regular season game since. The Panthers are 14-0 and blew out the Dirty Birds 38-0 in Charlotte in Week 14 to move to 13-0.

According to, the Atlanta Falcons are a seven-point home underdog to the undefeated Carolina Panther on Sunday. 62% of bets are picking the Panthers to beat the Falcons by more than a touchdown and PAT. The over/under in this game is 47.5 with 58% going with the over. Kickoff for this NFC South rivalry game being played at the Georgia Dome is at 1:00 PM ET and the game will air on Fox.

-= Related: Devonta Freeman: Will he hit 1,000 rushing yards vs. Panthers? =-

Atlanta ended its NFL worst, six-game losing streak last Sunday in Jacksonville by defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars, 23-17. The Atlanta Falcons enters Week 16 at 7-7, barely hanging on to NFC Playoff aspirations. Atlanta will need to win out (Carolina, New Orleans) and have both the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings lose out to earn an improbable Wild Card berth.

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While playoffs aren’t realistic at this point, Atlanta does have another crack at putting a blemish on the Panthers’ otherwise perfect season. In all honesty, it can’t get any worse than the last two meeting against Carolina for the Atlanta Falcons. Week 14 was one of two games this season that Atlanta was never in, the other being at home against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12.

Last week against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Atlanta Falcons had more balance on offense than the unit had displayed in weeks, using the run to open up the believable play-action bootleg. It was one of the few times this season that quarterback Matt Ryan looked completely comfortable running offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast offense.

Though Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones, and running back Devonta Freeman did most of the heavy lifting in Week 15 (as usual), Ryan was able to get his other wide receivers, veteran Roddy White and rookie Justin Hardy,into the third down passing game. Ryan bested one of the league’s most improved passers this year in Week 15 in Jaguars starting quarterback Blake Bortles.

Ryan and the rest of the Atlanta Falcons will have their work cut out for them as Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and the rest of the Carolina Panthers have no intentions on dropping a game this season. One more win would secure the Panthers home field advantage in the NFC Playoffs, as the second-place Arizona Cardinals could do no better than 14-2 during the 2015 NFL regular season.

The Atlanta Falcons are not going to likely disrupt quarterback Cam Newton with their meager pass rush, nor will they take away middle linebacker Luke Kuechly‘s effectiveness on defense. For Atlanta to upset the Panthers on Sunday, the Dirty Birds will need to do three things:

  1. Slow down the running game of the Panthers. Starting tailback Jonathan Stewart will not go on Sunday as he is still dealing with a foot sprain suffered in the Panthers’ Week 14 over the Atlanta Falcons. Expect Newton to hand the ball off to Cameron Artis-Payne, Fozzy Whittaker, and Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert. Newton isn’t turning the ball over in 2015, but taking away a reliable running game could only put the pressure on the presumed MVP of the National Football League.
  2. Find balance on offense. Try to repeat what worked against Jacksonville. Though it seems nearly impossible given the imposing nature of Carolina’s fearsome front seven, using the run to open up the pass could at least give Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons offense a chance to gain some momentum in this bitter rivalry game.
  3. Play loose. Don’t worry about making the playoffs, just focus on each snap to try to out compete the Panthers. Doing that often enough stands as the Atlanta Falcons’ best chance to upset the undefeated Carolina Panthers. Great effort could swing fortuitous situations in Atlanta’s favor. The Falcons will need to catch some lucky breaks to stand a chance in this one, despite the game being at the Georgia Dome.

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Should the Atlanta Falcons pull this off, this will be by far and away the biggest upset of the 2015 NFL season, bigger than the middling Philadelphia Eagles getting the best of the New England Patriots in Week 13. Though Atlanta has some talented players, the Panthers have a more complete roster and should win convincingly in their rival’s dome.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers 31, Atlanta Falcons 17