This is, to all appearances, the easiest game remaining on Atlanta's slate. The Carolina Panthers have had a miserable, quasi-comical season, one that is likely to end with Ron Rivera fired and several players being shipped out of town.
If the desperate team that just lost to the Chiefs sounds like a classic trap game, it should be. The Falcons are coming off two hard-fought, emotional victories. There is one tiny little complicating factor, though, that makes this is a likely victory for the Falcons.
For an already 3-9 football team with a hull scraping the bottom, this is a bold stroke. For Ron Rivera, who isn't likely to survive the brewing off-season purge, it's close to suicidal. For the broader Panthers organization, it may be the only way to find out if they've got any diamonds in the rough on a squad that has been a major disappointment in 2012.
James Dator of Cat Scratch Reader tells me that this "go young" movement may sound noble, but it's not going to save Rivera's job or win them many games.
With injuries mounting, though, Rivera barely has a choice in the first place. The Panthers might as well try to get a top three pick in a draft where all the talent is at the very top. And that means a very likely win for the Falcons, who still have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs to try for. They'll be coming into this one pumped up and ready to go, and this is a demonstrably worse Panthers team than they faced earlier this season, road game be damned.
The usual caveats about guarantees still apply, but this is a game the Falcons should win and win handily. Do you agree?