After facing a couple of AFC teams who don’t have a significant history against the Falcons, Atlanta now plays a team whom they know very well in the division rival Carolina Panthers. These teams have played in the same division ever since Carolina’s inception in 1995, meeting twice every season over the past 26 years.
While the Falcons have a razor thin margin in their record against the Bucs and Saints (falling to a .500 record against Tampa earlier this year and having one more win than defeat against New Orleans), the Panthers are a division rival they have historically owned, sporting a glistening 33-19 record against their I-85 opponents.
After the newly minted Panthers won four of the first six matchups in this series, the Falcons rattled off 12 victories in the next 14 games between 1998 and 2004. That includes a 2002 season where the Birds shut Carolina out in both matchups.
Atlanta has a 17-9 record in this series in the Matt Ryan era. The only time the Panthers found any success against Ryan’s Falcons was when they won five games in six matchups between 2012 and the start of 2015, with the 2013 season being the only one where they have ever swept Ryan.
While Dan Quinn had his share of struggles in Atlanta (only two winning seasons in six tries), one thing he was really good at was beating Carolina. Quinn was 8-3 against the guys from Charlotte, including a run from 2015 through 2019 where his Birds went on an 8-1 run. The Panthers did get a measure of revenge, however, as they were the defeat that ultimately sealed Quinn’s fate as Falcons head coach.
As has become customary in this matchup the past few years, the last time Atlanta and Carolina played against one another didn’t really matter and didn’t really amount to anything more than bragging rights.
The Panthers were at least in a decent spot going into that matchup, on Thursday Night Football in Week 8, sitting at 3-4 with some Wildcard hopes while the Falcons were 1-6 with their season already under water.
This was one of those turning point games for Younghoe Koo’s development and recognition as an elite kicker in fantasy football, as Atlanta’s offense consistently broke down in the red zone, leading to four short field goals being kicked. Matt Ryan and Todd Gurley each rushed for a touchdown which, in addition to Koo’s kicks, constituted all of Atlanta’s points.
The Falcons defense stepped up and had one of its finer performances of the season, against Teddy Bridgewater’s Carolina offense. In the fourth quarter especially, they stopped the Panthers on back to back drives following Gurley’s score to put the Birds up 25-17, including on the final drive where Blidi Wreh-Wilson made the game winning interception on a drive which ended up in Atlanta territory.
The Falcons improved to 2-6 and had some good feelings after this win, but nothing materialized out of that season for either of these teams, both of whom are still looking for their first playoff appearance since 2017.