I like Atlanta's chances of keeping this one pretty close. I just don't like their chances of winning against the Panthers, who boast a strong-armed quarterback who can scramble with the best of them, one of the better tight ends in the league, and a potentially suffocating defense. The hope here is that Atlanta can rebound offensively and hold Cam Newton in check, but over the course of four quarters, I don't think they've got the manpower to get that done.
Falcons 10 - Panthers 21
If Atlanta can make this a competitive game, I'll be happy. Let's be honest, though - Carolina is looking like one of the best teams in the league and Cam Newton has been playing at a very high level as the season has progressed. The Panthers defense is as good as ever, and with Julio coming into the game slightly hobbled, this just doesn't feel like a good matchup for the Falcons. The 2016 off-season can't get here soon enough.
Falcons 14, Panthers 35
Much like the 2014 season finale in the Georgia Dome, this game could get out of hand quickly. Cam Newton's playing like an MVP, the Panthers defense is filled with studs and the game is in Charlotte. This doesn't feel remotely close to a winnable game for the Falcons.
Falcons 28, Panthers 31
In Carolina, the Falcons seem to get up for the game better than they do at home. The Falcons have been playing well, but haven't been getting their red zone to hit the past six weeks. A renewed emphasis on the run game would be helpful against a great Panthers team. The Falcons defense also has been solid. In the end, this has a shootout feel because of how good the Panthers offense has been playing as of late. Atlanta just has to figure out how to limit the Panthers, and I don't know if they can do that.
Falcons 10, Panthers 27
Panthers 56, Falcons 0
Prove me wrong, Falcons.
Falcons 17, Panthers 36
What went into my prediction, other than the Falcons are very bad and the Panthers are very good? I have each team their average offensive output the last five weeks. While the Panthers are hitting on all cylinders (and must have some sort of turbo boost to put up 40+ points in two of those games), the Falcons have not scored more than 21 points since October 11th. This will be a Mike Nolan-level disaster.
Panthers 27, Falcons 13
With no playmakers outside of Julio Jones and Paul Soliai sidelined, the Falcons won't pose much of a challenge. Divisional games tend to be more competitive than usual. It's hard to see how things can drastically change for Atlanta. The pass rush is still non-existent, while linebacker play continues to get considerably worse. That doesn't bode well in trying to contain a quarterback like Cam Newton. Besides the development of several young players, Atlanta's season will end in a lackluster manner.