Several Key Players Questionable for Sunday
In addition to William Moore and Asante Samuel—who we discussed yesterday—Michael Turner has now appeared on the Falcons injury report, and is listed as questionable with an elbow injury. Additionally, Peria Jerry is also questionable with that nagging quad of his.
If Turner is unable to go, it will be up to Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling to move the ball on the ground against the Panthers. Coach Smith has already said he's comfortable giving the bulk of the carries to Rodgers, who could receive the biggest shot of his NFL career to shine on Sunday. While Turner hasn't racked up many yards this year, he has scored a touchdown in the last three games, and while many may not agree, his absence would be missed.
McClain Set to Face Team That Cut Him
After joining the Falcons with very small expectations, Robert McClain has blossomed into a very effective cornerback and has provided some much-needed depth in Atlanta's secondary. Now, he'll have a chance to exact revenge on the first team that cut him.
The Panthers made McClain their 2010 seventh round draft pick; after playing in a few games that year, he was released by the team.
While he played in the Week 4 contest against Carolina—and recorded three tackles—he wasn't given nearly as much of a chance to shine as he'll likely receive on Sunday.
Injuries Could Speed Carolina's Youth Movement
The Panthers season is, for all intents and purposes, already over, as their 3-9 record will prevent them from even sniffing the playoffs in January. Given their placement in the standings and some crucial injuries, head coach Ron Rivera will likely give some of his younger, more inexperienced players some significant play time in the last four games of 2012.
Most of these injuries—the meaningful ones, at least—have struck Carolina's defense.
"It would make life tough, I'll tell you," said Rivera if the three defensive starters can't play. "Those three (injured veterans obviously are big keys to who we are. But the three guys who came in played, we keep them around for a reason. And they showed they have some ability."
Experience Propelling Falcons in 2012
After beginning the 2008 season with a rookie head coach, a rookie quarterback and a shattered franchise, the Falcons have taken some time to develop into the veteran-lead, experienced kind of team that goes on to win Super Bowls. Five seasons later, quite a lot has changed.
"The nucleus of this team has been together two, three years," Peterson said. "We hold each other to a very high standard. With these veteran guys, I don't have to go get on a young offensive lineman or a young tight end, I can just look at Tony, look at Mud (McClure) and they know. When one of the groups is not holding up their end of the deal, it falls on that leader of the group."
Mike Smith Calls Carolina a 'Very Dangerous Team'
The Panthers may be 3-9, but that doesn't mean Mike Smith will be taking them lightly.
"Very dangerous team. This team played us right to the wire last time," Smith said. "They're a very physical football team on defense. They've got an offense that's very explosive. When we've played them they've been tight games since we've been here. I anticipate it's going to be another hard fought game over in Charlotte."