This Sunday the Falcons take to the road for a rematch against the Carolina Panthers, a game that could have major playoff implications down the road. Coming into the game both teams sit at 5-7, only one game back of 49ers for the last playoff spot. The Panthers hold the tie breaker from their win over the Falcons in Week Eight, however a lot has changed since that game.
- 'There's a lot riding on this game': Duron Harmon, Falcons defense embrace the importance of Panthers rematch
- Mike Davis reflects on the places that shaped him
- Falcons health check: Updates on Hayden Hurst, Calvin Ridley
- Arthur Smith said the Falcons haven't 'put together a complete game': What needs to change in order to do so?
The Panthers welcomed back former franchise quarterback Cam Newton whose return has yielded mixed results. After showing flashes of his former self in his first two games as a Panther where he accounted for four touchdowns in the air and on the ground; he followed that up with a 5-21 passing performance with two picks before getting benched for PJ Walker. Suffice it to say we don't know which version of Cam we will see on Sunday, but he is still Cam Newton and a very capable mobile quarterback which can be concerning when Sam Darnold was able to rush for 8.3 yards per carry the last time we faced off.
Get an inside look at the matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Week 13.
The last time these two sides faced off the Falcons offense struggled in the passing game. With Calvin Ridley a late game scratch Kyle Pitts had then newly acquired Stephon Gilmore on his hip for almost the entire game. Pitts was only able to reel in two receptions for 13 yards, a far cry from his 59 yards per game average that's landed him atop the NFC for total receiving yards as a tight end (shameless Pro Bowl plug).
Since then Pitts has been able to find his footing as the primary target defenses are trying to take out of the game and it has opened up the field for other receivers to step up. Russell Gage set career highs in receptions (11) and receiving yards (130) last game against Tampa with Pitts drawing in the defense.
The Falcons haven't shied away from the importance of this game. A win and they're still well within the playoff picture, a loss and we start edging closer to mathematical elimination. With a few injuries on the defensive side still up in the air the Falcons will have their work cut out for them. Monitor the status of Ade Ogundeji, Fabian Moreau, and Richie Grant heading into Sunday to have a clearer idea of who will be suiting up for the Falcons in this pivotal NFC South match up.
With all of that to unpack let's take a look at who the experts have picked to win this weekend.
*Picks made as of Dec. 9
|Author | Outlet||Pick||2021 Record|
|Jarrett Bell | USA Today||Falcons||9-3|
|Matt Bowen | ESPN||Panthers||7-5|
|Gregg Rosenthal | NFL.com||Panthers||8-4|
|Gary Davenport | Bleacher Report||Falcons||6-6|
|Brad Gagnon | Bleacher Report||Falcons||9-3|
|Vinnie Iyer | Sporting News||Falcons||8-4|
|Rob Ninkovich | ESPN||Falcons||7-5|
|Jason La Confora | CBS Sports||Falcons||8-4|
|Pete Prisco | CBS Sports||Panthers||7-5|
|Lorenzo Reyes | USA Today||Panthers||9-3|