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BLOG: On the road with WBTV Sports-- Atlanta with the Carolina Panthers

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It feels like deja vu all over again.

For the third straight season, the Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons game has post season implications.

If the Panthers win today, they wrap up the #1 seed in the NFC which means the road to the Super Bowl would run thru Charlotte.

The Falcons have to win just to stay in the playoff conversation.

It feels like deja vu in another way that does not favor the Falcons.

Two weeks ago, the Panthers took on the Dirty Birds coming off a disappointing Panther defensive effort against New Orleans in a game where they gave up 38 points.

The results of that Panthers vs Falcons match up was a 38-0 Carolina shutout win.

The Panthers D is coming off blowing a 28 point lead in the second half last week against the Giants and once again, Atlanta was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I expect this defense to bounce back today, but I don't think it will be a shut out.

This division game should be tougher for the Panthers for a couple of reasons.  It is a division game and the Falcons will play with some heart today knowing their playoff hopes are on the line.

Some things to watch for today:

Can the Panthers run defense bounce back?

Last week, the Giants entered the game as the worst rushing offense in the NFL, but they ran for 161 yards against Carolina.

Also, keep an eye on the Panthers pass defense as they continue to work Cortland Finnegan into the mix.  

These are two issues the Falcons can capitalize on if the Panthers have not buttoned things up.

On offense, pay attention to running back Cameron Artis-Payne.  Last week, in his first real regular season action, the rookie rushed for 59 yards on 14 carries and had 34 yards receiving.  His progression may come in handy in the playoffs to provide another option when Jonathan Stewart comes back from his injury.

Bottom line, the Panthers are just a better team than the Falcons at this point, so with that said, I am calling for a Panthers win in pretty easy fashion.

Final score...

Carolina 30
Atlanta  14


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