The road ahead before he playoffs becomes much easier at this point. Three of the final four opponents for Atlanta have record below or at .500. The first stop is Carolina, where the Falcons face the 3-9 Panthers. Carolina’s season may have taken an all time low last week when they fell the one win Chiefs. Earlier in the year, Carolina played Atlanta very tough and lost by just two points. That was in week 4 and much has changed since then. Carolina has fallen off the map and have been out of playoff contention for weeks. Atlanta has built of their hot start to easily hold the best record in the NFC. The Falcons have very nearly taken home field advantage for the playoffs and may be able to seal that today, although they would need a lot of help.
Carolina is a team that has built around their running game. This year the rushing attack has been a complete mess. They could not get either Stewart nor Williams going early in the year. They tried to go with just a feature back, but that lasted for about a week. Next Stewart goes down for a few weeks and WIlliams takes back over. That is where we stand now as Stewart is unlikely to play in this game. What that means more likely is that Cam Newton is going to have to take over completely as the top rusher and passer. Williams has struggled as the top back and Mike Tolbert has been almost completely ignored as a backup. Cam Newton is capable of putting up big numbers though, so Atlanta has to be weary of that.
This one shouldn’t come down to the wire like most Atlanta games have recently. Atlanta clearly the superior team on the field today and should prove that fairly easily. Carolina has become so one dimensional, relying entirely on Cam Newton to go out and win ball games. The defense has been poor, the running game has taken a back seat, and Newton is fully in charge of the offense. The Falcons just need to look to cause turnovers and keep Steve Smith under wraps. My prediction is Falcons win this game fairly easily.