We are down to the final week of the NFL regular season, and there are still a few playoff places up for grabs. The Atlanta Falcons take on the Carolina Panthers this weekend knowing they need to win to land a playoff spot, but the Seattle Seahawks are chasing them down. It would be ideal for the Falcons to be facing a team with nothing to play for this week, but if the Panthers win this one and the Rams and Vikings lose, they could clinch second spot for themselves, giving them a first-round bye. There is a lot to play for, and this weekend we are going to see many twists and turns for sure.
Despite Atlanta having their destiny in their own hands, and being on home soil in the final game, I don’t actually think they will make the playoffs this season. The Panthers are playing very well this year, and with the Falcons being just 1-4 against playoff seeded rivals, there is nothing to suggest they have the ability in their game to dig out a win against such a good team.
Of course, the Falcons have plenty of offensive weapons. They have Julio Jones who has come to life over the past few weeks, as well as many other contributors like Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. But that doesn’t appear to be enough, time after time they have struggled against big teams, and that is a run that looks sure to continue when the Panthers come to town.
The Panthers have it in their own interest to win this one too, as they could find themselves with the second seed and a bye in week one of the playoffs if things go their way. That looked highly unlikely a few weeks ago, but it is a reality now, even though they do have to rely on other teams losing and doing them a favour.
The fact that both teams need to win this game for their own benefit means this one should be a cracker and it looks to be the game of the weekend, with the most at stake. The Falcons will be desperate to reach the playoffs after the disappointment of last season, but this is a tough game, and one I think they will ultimately lose against the Panthers. I do not think the Panthers will get the help they need to secure second spot and a first-week bye, but they do have enough to beat the Falcons here.