Going back to 2001 the NFC South rivalry between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers has been relatively one-sided. Doubling up the Panthers win total, the Falcons have a comfortable 16-8 record in the divisional match up.
Before winning the final meeting of 2012, the Panthers had dropped five straight games to the Falcons.
Look for Carolina to make it two straight wins over their rival on Sunday.
At 2-5 the Falcons look a shadow of their former selves. A year ago the Falcons were a top seed in the NFC and finished 13-3, yet find themselves on the brink of playoff elimination at the halfway mark this year.
Carolina on the other hand is not exactly a Super Bowl contender in the eyes of most experts, however they are playing extremely good football right now. At 4-3 the Panthers are in striking distance in the NFC South and the Wild Card playoff alike. Cam Newton and the defense have been elite and will shoulder the load to carry this team as far as possible this season.
In case you forgot how bad things have been in Carolina lately, the last time they were above .500 was when they finished the 2008 season at 12-4 and made the playoffs. Five years since they had a winning record, that’s an eternity in the NFL. That also was the last time they found themselves ahead of Atlanta at the end of a season.
It’s the defense that is really impressive. In the offensive era of the NFL, the Panthers have built a defense that plays within the handicapping rules for today’s defenders and still makes it near impossible to score.
The Chiefs defense may get more credit, but it is the Panthers who are the number one scoring defense on the season, allowing just 96 points the entire season. Besides Kansas City no one else can claim to have allowed under 100 points this year.
Riding a three game win streak, the Panthers have been hot on both sides of the ball recently. Cam Newton has emerged as a top tier quarterback, completing nearly 80 percent of his passes with a quarterback rating of 130.3 during the win streak.
For the season Newton has taken better care of the ball while still making plays, spreading the ball around to his other receivers rather than forcing it to his stars. The results are 12 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.
The Panthers have also seen the benefit of Ted Ginn Jr. making a name for himself at receiver.
Look for the Panthers defense to stifle a Falcon offense that has not clicked at all this year and now will be without its top two pass catchers in Roddy White and Julio Jones. Matt Ryan needs help in Atlanta, and the Panthers will pounce on this beat up unit.
Defensively the Falcons have not been as scary as they had hoped and do not appear to be the ones who will slow down Cam Newton.
Not only will the Panthers beat the Falcons, it could get ugly.
Prediction: Panthers 27. Falcons 14