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Point Counterpoint: Week 14


Every week, there's a rush of information in the days leading up to game day. Bloggers, TV analysts, reporters, fans … everyone has an opinion, and in the age of hyper-speed new media, everyone's got a chance to share it.

But sometimes it's tough to focus through all the noise.

Here we examine three storylines entering Week 14 that you'll surely hear all about. We present the flipside — the ideas from inside the walls of team headquarters — to suggest what the Atlanta Falcons are thinking of the popular headlines.

What they will say:The Panthers have generated next to nothing on offense this season, statistically ranking near the bottom in many of the priority offensive stats.

With Atlanta's ball-control offense maintaining possession for much of the game as it often does, Carolina will struggle to be successful in the limited time they'll have.

What we're saying:Even though it's a down year and he's getting older in league years, you can never discount what Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith can do .

The talent is there and he'd love nothing more than to break out this season against the NFC South rival Falcons.

Then, there's the curious case of Jonathan Stewart.

After a rocky start and a concussion slowed Stewart, the running back has come on in the last two weeks, rushing for 98 and 92 yards in the past two games, including one touchdown last week.

Atlanta's run defense is good, but Stewart is immensely talented and he's rushing for more than 5 yards per carry in the past two weeks and with a heavier workload against the Falcons, he could be a major factor.

What they will say:The game should be a breeze for the Falcons in every phase of the game.

What we're saying:The Panthers haven't gone down easy in many games this season. They're young and often overmatched, but they're playing like a team with nothing to lose, and like their star receiver, they'd love to be a thorn in the side of Atlanta's dream season.

Many say their head coach, John Fox, is done at the end of the season, but he said Monday that he's not looking ahead past the season. He and his staff are doing everything they can to win some games this season.

"I just can tell you that you will get everything we've got until then," Fox said.

What they will say:The Panthers are just playing out the string and hope to get the top pick in the draft, likely to be a quarterback.

What we're saying:First, the team's current rookie quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, is a second-round pick with some talent but has gotten little help this season.

Second, no self-respecting player plays for next season when there's no guarantee of anything. If anything, the future for the Panthers is unknown and thus every player needs to do what he can to ensure he'll have a future in the league whether it's with the Panthers or otherwise.

A few of the players in the Falcons locker room who were around in 2007 can speak about uncertainty. Carolina still has something to play for.

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