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Falcons vs. Panthers: The Matchup That Matters For The Last Game

It's time for the Falcons' pass rush to come up big against the Carolina Panthers.

Kevin C. Cox

The Falcons were able to shuffle their offensive line toward the end of the 2013 season, swapping Peter Konz for a much more effective Joe Hawley at center and giving Ryan Schraeder meaningful snaps at right tackle. There's a reason to believe that the return of a healthy Sam Baker and a couple of signings could give the Falcons a league average line in 2014, which would go a long way toward ensuring they don't repeat this season.

The defensive line has been a bigger question mark. That line against Cam Newton and the Panthers' blockers is the battle to watch this Sunday, when you're not watching Tony Gonzalez in his last NFL game. The Falcons need to figure out what they have and whether there's anyone who could be worth building on.

With Corey Peters out, the Falcons may finally give Travian Robertson or Adam Replogle some meaningful reps. Robertson has not been able to crack the team's three-man rotation at DT, but if he's going to even stick with the team a year from now, it'd be nice for him to be able to show something in live snaps. Replogle has some intriguing strength and could get a shot, as well.

On the ends, the Falcons need to evaluate Jonathan Massaquoi, Malliciah Goodman and Stansly Maponga. Mass has probably earned himself a spot in the rotation next season with his four sacks and above average pass rushing skills, while Goodman remains a project as a pass rusher but is already a capable run-stopper. Maponga's just raw in general.

The upshot here is that the line could use a good performance against the Panthers, and there's some rookies and second-year guys who need this playing time. When everything's said and done, let's hope we head into the off-season with some reasons for optimism.