This is the time of the year where bad teams are playing out the string. For a team like the Falcons who have determined they’re not firing their head coach and are returning their franchise quarterback and many pieces on both sides of the ball, it’s an especially awkward way to end the year. Who do you play? What do you care about? How invested can you truly be?
The same is true of the Carolina Panthers, who will have Cam Newton next year, except the coach part. Ron Rivera may legitimately be in danger of being fired with a new owner in place in Carolina and a pretty epic collapse after the Panthers looked like a virtual playoff lock earlier in the year. Now Newton’s on the shelf for the team’s final two games and they’re also just playing out the string, hoping to beat the Falcons and (somehow) Saints to keep Rivera around.
The end result, more than likely, will be some ugly football. The Panthers offense looks inept even without a backup quarterback under center, while the Falcons have done nothing good in over a month when they weren’t playing the absolute worst team in football. Something has to give here, but it’s anyone’s guess what it will be, given that both teams are capable of some truly abysmal play. In the end, Carolina’s strong defense might just get the job done, and we’ll be one week closer to an offseason I look forward to more each day.
Here’s what you’ll need to know for Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers, Week 16
When: Sunday, December 23, 1 p.m. EST
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
Radio: 92.9 The Game
Announcers: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth, Jennifer Hale
Prediction: Falcons lose, 24-20
Key Questions: Will the Panthers even bother to play Cam Newton with their playoff hopes all but extinguished and Newton clearly flailing? Will the Falcons go right back to being terrible on offense against a quality defense? Will this game be watchable?
Opponent Site: Cat Scratch Reader
2018 Falcons Schedule (5-9)
Week 1: Falcons @ Eagles, Thursday Night Football - Loss
Week 2: Falcons vs. Panthers, Win
Week 3: Falcons vs. Saints, Loss
Week 4: Falcons vs. Bengals, Loss
Week 5: Falcons @ Steelers, Loss
Week 6: Falcons vs. Buccaneers, Win
Week 7: Falcons vs. Giants, Win
Week 8: BYE WEEK
Week 9: Falcons @ Redskins, Win
Week 10: Falcons @ Browns, Loss
Week 11: Falcons vs. Cowboys, Loss
Week 12: Falcons @ Saints, Loss
Week 13: Falcons vs. Ravens, Loss
Week 14: Falcons @ Packers, Loss
Week 15: Falcons vs. Cardinals, Win
Week 16: Falcons @ Panthers, Sunday December 23 1:00 p.m.
Week 17: Falcons @ Buccaneers, Sunday December 30 1:00 p.m.