The Atlanta Falcons will have their hands full against the undefeated Carolina Panthers tomorrow. They will need to play perfectly to even stay in the game. Given how the second half has played out, that seems unlikely, at least from an objective standpoint. But the guys with the hardest jobs on the field tomorrow aren't players. It's John Parry and the rest of the officiating crew.
Mike Florio of NBC Sports raised an interesting question earlier today. If the game gets chippy tomorrow, how do Parry and company keep things under control?
The officials have failed in the last to weeks to control players in both Cincinnati and New York. While much of the public focus has been on those who committed the acts, it's safe to assume that, behind the scenes, the NFL has read the proverbial riot act to the officials.
The tension going into tomorrow's game is palpable. The Panthers want to stay undefeated, while the Falcons want to avoid elimination. This is not a friendly matchup, even when the stakes aren't this high. Throw in the Josh Norman shenanigans last weekend and Norman's apparent history of confrontational pre-game antics when facing the Falcons, it's a recipe for disaster.
So how does this play out? My guess is that the officials, as Florio suggests, are on high alert. Remember, Parry presided over that penalty-filled Steelers-Bengals game last weekend. If someone got an earful after that game, it was undoubtedly Parry, and I'd bet he'll look to avoid a repeat performance. They're not going to tolerate anything that remotely resembles unsportsmanlike conduct.