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Point-Counterpoint: Week 17


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 17 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:Easy win for the Falcons playing the Panthers in the final game of the regular season. The Panthers are just playing out the string.

What we're saying:There's no such thing as an easy win in the NFL. The Panthers have nothing to play for on paper, but they've got their own personal pride to defend. Also, they'd like nothing more than to come into the Georgia Dome and ruin the Falcons' season and alter their playoff plans with an upset victory.

What they will say:The Panthers' run defense has improved in recent weeks, but they're still ranked 23rd. They'll need to tighten up to stop Atlanta's top-ranked rushing attack.

What we're saying:The Falcons aren't hearing any of that. They may have had success this season running the ball, but all that matters is what you did last week. Last week, the Saints held the Falcons to 75 yards rushing, 26 from quarterback Matt Ryan.

Atlanta knows the Panthers will study closely how the Saints stopped the running attack and will work hard to do the exact same things. The Falcons will need to figure out what wasn't working and fix it quickly.

What they will say:With a lead, the Falcons may choose to rest some of their starters and veterans.

What we're saying:The Falcons, especially head coach Mike Smith, won't entertain that thought. If the game gets to that point, they'll consider those options at that time. Until then, no one will talk about that before the game even begins.

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