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Behind Enemy Lines: Carolina Panthers

In the midst of their preparations for the Panthers this week, several Falcons players have expressed their excitement for what they've all said will be a high intense, emotional and passionate game on Sunday.

The team they'll face on the other side of the field feel the same way, with Panthers head coach Ron Rivera comparing the game to a fight between brothers.

"I think the big thing about the Atlanta game for us is that we're so close," Rivera said. "We're in driving distance. It's kind of like being brothers. You want to beat your brother when you get a chance."

The NFC South rivals are both having surprising seasons, but for opposite reasons. While the Falcons head into the game 2-5, the Panthers have started the season 4-3 after ending the previous three with a losing record.

Still, records don't mean much to Rivera, especially when it comes to the Falcons.

"Throw the record out," he said. "They have too many good players on the team. They've had some tough breaks but it's not going their way. People don't understand how hard it is to have success in this league and when you have success, you have to ride the wave. It's kind of nice to have a little fortune on our side but we have to work hard and make things happen for us."

Working hard is exactly what they've been doing to get to the point where they are, not only on the field but off the field as well. After what Rivera said were tough lumps between him and QB Cam Newton, both are proud of the growth they've seen over the past few years.

Newton also credits his growth since he's been in the NFL to his relationship with veteran receiver Steve Smith, who he views as a brotherly figure.

"He helps me in everyday life and it's been great for him to be around because I can go to him for help," he said. "Being the captain on this team, being the leader, vocally and by actions and it helps us as a team and it helps the receivers in that room and we need it now more than ever."

When they team up on the field Sunday with the rest of their offense, Newton said they'll be facing a 'stout' Falcons defense, while Rivera also praised their offense and realize they pose a real threat to the team.

Given how the season has unraveled for both teams and past history of some high intensity games, both the Panthers and Falcons are ready to put up a fight and come out of the game with another one on their win column, but both realize it won't be easy.

"There's a lot of fight to these guys and we've got to be on our game against them," Rivera said. "I've told my players, records don't mean anything. It's who they are, and they're a group of guys that have won and won consistently. They've been in the playoffs and they are where we want to get to. We've got a big challenge against them."

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