While the Atlanta Falcons have long been eliminated from playoff contention, they can still play spoiler when they host the Carolina Panthers in the final game of the 2013 regular season.
The Panthers are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, which is also the last time Carolina won the NFC South.
If Atlanta manages to defeat Carolina, the New Orleans could claim the division crown by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Falcons (4-11) can look forward to closing the book on a dismal season that began with Super Bowl aspirations.
Sunday’s game will also mark the last time Tony Gonzalez, the greatest tight end of all time, will don football pads.
Even at age 37, Gonzalez has been performing at a high level with 79 receptions for 803 yards and eight touchdowns. At his rate, he could probably play a few more years and be as effective.
With a win, Carolina (11-4) would win the NFC South division crown as well as a first-round bye in the playoffs. With the help of other teams, the Panthers could potentially be the top seed in the NFC after the football weekend is over.
While Cam Newton’s yardage through the air and on the ground are down, the quarterback has posted career highs in completion percentage (62.1), passing touchdowns (22), and passer rating (89.2). More importantly, he’s led the Panthers to a winning record.
The two teams last met in Week 9, with Carolina putting a 34-10 shellacking on Atlanta.
Matt Ryan threw three interceptions in that game as the offense was held in check by the Panthers’ ferocious defense.
However, Ryan has yet to lose to Carolina in the Georgia Dome. If there’s any time for the Panthers to get a win against Ryan in his home, it’s this season.
For whatever reason, I think Ryan makes it 6-0 against the Panthers at home. It’ll be a nice sendoff win for Gonzalez.
Points Scored: 22.2 (21st)
Total Offense: 345.5 (12th)
Passing Offense: 267.5 (6th)
Rushing Offense: 78.1 (32nd)
Points Allowed: 28.1 (29th)
Total Defense: 385.8 (28th)
Passing Defense: 249.9 (25th)
Rushing Defense: 135.9 (31st)
Points Scored: 23.0 (19th)
Total Offense: 319.1 (25th)
Passing Offense: 192.9 (28th)
Rushing Offense: 126.1 (11th)
Points Allowed: 14.7 (1st)
Total Defense: 300.9 (2nd)
Passing Defense: 213.2 (7th)
Rushing Defense: 87.7 (2nd)