Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers Take on Rival Falcons in Key Game

Sharon Thorsland
December 29, 2017 - 10:59 am

It's another huge NFC South game for the Panthers, who travel down I-85 to take on the Falcons. Kick-off is set for 4:25 on WBT. It's the regular season finale, and there's plenty riding on this one - the division title is still up for grabs, not to mention a possible home playoff game and a first round bye. For the Falcons, it's win and they're in the playoffs - they're sitting at 9-6 on the season after a loss to the Saints last week. The Panthers clinched a post season berth with a last minute win over the Bucs.

 

As usual, the Falcons boast one of the NF L's most potent offenses, featuring former MVP and four time Pro Bowler Matt Ryan. He's thrown for nearly 3800 yards and 19 touchdowns with 12 interceptions. Ryan's favorite target is one of the best receivers in the league - Julio Jones finished 2nd in the NFL in receiving yards last year, and is third this season with 1,364 yards and three touchdowns. The All-Pro teams with Mohamed Sanu and former East Carolina standout Justin Hardy 

 

The Falcons running game is just as good as the passing attack, ranking 10th in the NFL behind the outstanding duo of Devante Freeman and Tevin Coleman. A two-time Pro Bowler, Freeman is an explosive back who leads the team with 842 yards and seven touchdowns, Freeman teams with Coleman, who's a dual threat, with 890 combined rushing and receiving yards and 8 scores.

The Falcons defense has gotten even better since the first time these teams met back in week nine. They're 10th in the league, allowing 323 yards per game. All-Pro defensive tackle Dontari Poe anchors the front line. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and rookie Takkarist McKinley have combined for 15 and ½ sacks. Former Clemson standout and Pro Bowler Vic Beasley teams with a pair of 2nd year players at linebacker in De'Vondre Campbell and Deion Jones, who leads the team in tackles and has three of the team's five interceptions. Veteran cornerback Desmond Trufant has the other two. Second year safety Keanu Neal has three forced fumbles,

 

The Panthers know how important this game is. Besides the playoff implications, they're taking on the defending NFC champions who happen to be one of their biggest rivals – that means off-season bragging rights come into play. ”We're playing for a lot, because best case sceaniro we can get 2nd or 3rd seed to be honest with you,” said quarterback Cam Newton. “We go into eacn and every football game trying to win and this one's no different.”

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