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High Stakes For Playoff-Bound Panthers On Sunday Against Falcons

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CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 22: DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Credit, Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

DeAngelo Williams #34 of the Carolina Panthers scores a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 22, 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Credit, Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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By Danny Cox

The Carolina Panthers had an amazing come-from-behind victory this past Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, and it got them into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Everything is not settled yet though, and there is still a lot to play for in the final week against the Falcons, including a first-round bye in the playoffs.

A 4-10 (possibly 4-11 or 5-10) record for the Atlanta Falcons is not anything close to what they were expecting or hoping for when the 2013 season began.

When all is said and done, a lot of changes will need to be made, but they need to get through one more game and it will be against the Carolina Panthers.

Injuries have been the downfall of the Atlanta Falcons, and they have completely decimated the roster throughout the year. Some were season-ending and others were long enough to hinder player productivity on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Still, Atlanta has a lot of talent in their starters and on their bench so they should never be underestimated and the Panthers have to be well aware of that.

Falcons on Offense

Quarterback Matt Ryan really isn’t having a great season, but a big reason for that is due to injuries. Wide receiver Julio Jones is gone for the season and Roddy White has missed a great deal of time due to injury. Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez are Ryan’s primary targets, and they aren’t bad weapons to go with considering the top two receivers have been out a lot or are walking wounded.

Running back Steven Jackson was thought to bring a big spark to the Falcons offense this year, but injuries to him and the offensive line have fizzled that out. He’s still dangerous at times, but it appears as if Jackson’s usefulness may not last much longer.

Atlanta’s offense is very dangerous through the air as they own the eighth-ranked passing offense in the league, but they have the last-ranked rushing offense in the league as well.

Atlanta on Defense

Carolina should be able to take advantage of Atlanta’s porous defense which ranks in the bottom portion of the league in just about every category.

Linebacker Paul Worrilow is one of the premiere defensive players for the Falcons as he is the only one with over 100 tackles, but there is still a lot of talent for Cam Newton and company to watch out for. Cornerback Desmond Trufant leads the secondary while defensive end Osi Umenyiora leads the pass rush, but they need more help.

Final Word

The Falcons are going to need to put a lot of effort forth in order to ruin Carolina’s hopes of winning the NFC South and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Carolina will likely be without Steve Smith and they cannot rest and just sit back since they already know they are in the playoffs. There is a lot that is at stake and a victory brings them much more than they have already accomplished.

For more Carolina Panthers news and updates, visit Carolina Panthers Central.

Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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