LIVE: Falcons try to avoid letdown, can clinch playoff spot

Michael Turner goes over the top for the Falcons' second touchdown. They lead Carolina 17-0 at halftime.

Michael Turner goes over top for Falcons' second TD. They lead Carolina 17-0 at halftime.

CHARLOTTE — Welcome to the cold and dreary “Queen City.” The skies are supposed to clear up by kickoff. But right now it’s gray, it rained most of the night and the field isn’t in great shape (still chewed up in the middle from last week’s ACC title game).

But at least we know the roof won’t cave in on the Falcons and Carolina Panthers. Fortunately, there’s only one Minnesota. (I hate to see Brett Fave go out like this. Really. OK, not really.)

The roof has somewhat caved in on the Panthers. They’re 1-11 and have lost six straight. They’ve lost their last two home games by scores of 34-3 (New Orleans) and 37-13 (Baltimore).

Rookie starter Jimmy Clausen is 0-6 with one touchdown, six interceptions, 19 sacks, eight fumbles (two lost) and a 55.3 rating and a rating of 55.3 (lowest in the NFL).

Can this game be that easy for the Falcons?

These actually are the kinds of games that worry coaches. The Falcons are 10-2 with a six-game winning streak and actually can clinch a playoff berth today. But it is a division opponent on the road in potentially crummy conditions — and the Falcons didn’t exactly blow away Tampa Bay last week.

A win today is important, not just for playoff and home field reasons but because of what’s coming up. Next week the Falcons must travel to Seattle, which will be their third straight road game. Then comes the Monday night game against New Orleans. A loss to the Panthers and suddenly things get a little sticky.

About the playoffs: The Falcons went into the week knowing they could clinch today if they win and two of the following three teams lose: Philadelphia, Green Bay and the New York Giants. But with the Giants-Minnesota game postponed, they would need the Eagles and Packers to both lose. That’s not likely: Philly plays at Dallas and Green Bay is at Detroit.

Expect the Falcons to try to pound out their running game against a Carolina defense that ranks 27th against the rush. If the Atlanta defense has issues today, something is wrong. The Panthers rank last in total offense and scoring (12.8 per game).

Here are the Falcons’ inactives: John Parker Wilson (third QB), Dominique Franks, Jason Snelling (hamstring), Coy Wire, Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, Lawrence Sidbury, Trey Lewis. Running back Antone Smith was activated to replace Snelling.

That’s it for now. I’ll check back shortly. Can the Falcons avoid a letdown?

– By Jeff Schultz

Previous posts

Florida takes Dogs’ potential next coach: Muschamp (Will Kirby Smart join him?)

Cam Newton’s Heisman is a victory for fact over suspicions

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

698 comments Add your comment

Headley Lamar

December 12th, 2010
11:37 am

Funny that ESPN ran the SMU documentary right after Cam got the Heisman.

Although probably was scheduled for awhile that way.

Best egg nog in College Park

December 12th, 2010
11:42 am

Enter your comments here

stevie zero

December 12th, 2010
11:44 am

birds 27 panthers 9

PaulieOldschool

December 12th, 2010
11:48 am

I’m thinking that the coaching staff will be watching carefully, just to make sure there’s no emotional dragging. I just don’t see that happening. Too many vets on this team and I think everybody is headed in the same direction (forward), unlike in other years. We pound the ball, get in our chip shot passes, play good D, and use our time management skills, we should win this going away. No blowout, but I don’t care if we win by 1, I just want the W.

lanier

December 12th, 2010
11:50 am

think you got it about right stevie

robert

December 12th, 2010
11:51 am

Why not activate Sidbury?, this would be a great game to give him some reps and give Abe a break. Doesnt make sense, especially with our lack of pass rush. Don’t we rank at the bottom of the league in sacks?

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
11:53 am

Man can we get one of those nice OUTDOOR STADIUMS here in Atlanta? Man I so want to be Tailgating and sitting in this weather to watch a 10-2 team play a 1-11 team.
Hurry Falcon ticket holders call Mr Blank and DEMAND he get the Falcons an OUTDOOR STADIUM NOW.

Sanford Drive

December 12th, 2010
11:57 am

(((((42-34)))))

I am SO glad it hurts you Nerds more than you will EVER admit!!!!

THWGT

Headley Lamar

December 12th, 2010
12:00 pm

Hows the weather in Charlotte?

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
12:01 pm

Sanford
This is about the Falcons. God are you still happy over that game? How you liking Richt right now. Muschamp will spanking the Dawgs. That will be worse than Dooley & Dye druing the UGA v AU back and forth games. CWM want even have to come to Athens to whip the Mutts. He has to love that.

Tucker T

December 12th, 2010
12:01 pm

It hurts not having Snelling today. Hopefully he gets well soon. Turner will have to take most of the carries.

Dr. Warren

December 12th, 2010
12:03 pm

You know it’s a crazy year when the Falcons could stand at 11-2 without having clinched a playoff spot. Of course, the only thing more boring than watching the Panthers play is Charlotte itself. Let’s hope the Falcons don’t succumb to boredom and give this one away.

Tucker T

December 12th, 2010
12:03 pm

Can we please drop the UGA/Tech talk? I’m a UGA fan but this is a Falcons blog and since both teams are going to terrible bowls, there really isn’t anything to talk about.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
12:15 pm

Thanks TUCKER
I can’t beleive Sanford wanted to talk DAWGS on NFL Sunday.
The Falcons don’t need to play this week like they did last week. Maybe the Saints will play like they did last week this week too. I was so hoping the Saints would lose last week to a bad team. The Falcons just need to run the ball and eat the clock. Clausen SUCKS he cna’t beat the Falcons I don’t believe.

MikeSimpson

December 12th, 2010
12:24 pm

Cant believe some of you actually WANT an open air stadium. Been there, hated that. Unless you can guarantee a nice day. It’d be a LOT of fun on a day like tomorrow, wouldnt it? We’d never get another Super Bowl either. Unless you want to go crazy and build a Dallas-style stadium.

suwaneedawg

December 12th, 2010
12:26 pm

POAD, spell check son, for God’ s sakes spell check!

Headley Lamar

December 12th, 2010
12:28 pm

Cant believe some of you actually WANT an open air stadium.

Id prefer one. Sure you are gonna get some bad weather games but the trade off would be worth it.

Sanford Drive Hater

December 12th, 2010
12:29 pm

Sanford’s like the guy who flips a bird in traffic and drives on because he knows he can take a cheap shot with no consequences. You can be sure that he doesn’t jack at the mouth to his co-workers and other acquaintances. (Notice I didn’t say “friends.” That might be a stretch.)
I wonder how much it would cost to get somebody in India to delete off-topic posts to the AJC blogs before they become visible. Probably not much more than $10-20 per hour for all of them. I’d contribute a couple of bucks a month to silence Sanford’s sorry self. Unless of course he wanted to post on-topic, in which case I’d welcome his contribution to the community.

Problem Solver

December 12th, 2010
12:30 pm

Does anybody know the playoff scenario between the Falcons and Saints? If NO beats Atlanta, and both teams finish 13-3, who wins the division?

George P.

December 12th, 2010
12:31 pm

Just struck me who Sanford Drive is. He’s the kid who got kicked off the baseball team a few years back.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
12:33 pm

Mike
I don’t think people remember what games were like outside at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium. The Dome ain’t that old and it is comfortable to watch a game. Football was ment to be played outside for sure on real grass, but don’t expect people to come to the games in weather like this. I wouldn’t want to play tons of money to see a superbowl in weather like this. If I want to play good money being misrable I will go see a S&M chick. LOL. Falcon fans that want an outdoor stadiun only remember to nice days never the few days we get like this. Will there be 20K fans at the game today? The Falcons have mostly been bad and you think if we get to sit outside to see a bad team then I don’t see that happening.

Headley Lamar

December 12th, 2010
12:34 pm

You guys have yours too.

After Tech got their once a decade win two years ago some guy named St Simons was on any and every blog posting the score.

treaddawg

December 12th, 2010
12:36 pm

This is NFL Sunday, the day for jocks and wannabe jocks. No spell check rules for this crowd please…This is about getting away from the drudgery of the week for a few hours and hang with like minded people. Rich, poor, ignorant, educated, we go to war together amen?!

Joseph

December 12th, 2010
12:37 pm

ATL wins division unless they lose 2 games. Common opponents advantage.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
12:37 pm

Headley
And most Tech fans were sick of St Simons too. If you remember many Tech fans told him to shut the F up too.
St Simons on blogs not about Tech or UGA was told all the time to leave.

Headley Lamar

December 12th, 2010
12:38 pm

Falcon fans that want an outdoor stadiun only remember to nice days never the few days we get like this

and vise versa,

Funny how it can snow 3 ft and the Jets, Patriots, Giants, Eagles, Seahawks etc etc etc would sell out no problem.

Whats the big deal?

Sanford Drive

December 12th, 2010
12:38 pm

(((((30-24)))))
(((((73-66)))))
(((((42-34)))))
(((((SHREVEPORT)))))
(((((73-72)))))

Been a great 12.5 months to be a Jacket vs. the Dawgs hasn’t it??? Go ahead and talk baseball, but the only baseball that counts is the kind that doesn’t *ping* when it comes off a bat.

You can thank Saint Simons from Nov 2008 – Nov 2009 with his relentless smack talk. I (we) got sick of it. Now you are getting it 10 fold until the Nerds beat the Dawgs. And I do not see that happening ANY time soon.

SO GLAD IT HURTS AND ANNOYS YOU!!!!! :)

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
12:39 pm

treaddawg
Amen. I just type. I hope most of what I say is understood. A few misspelled words will not kill the points most people are trying to make.

Cheesehead

December 12th, 2010
12:39 pm

Green Bay & Chicago as well!

JSS

December 12th, 2010
12:41 pm

Open the press box window and take the wind like Men!!!

Sid

December 12th, 2010
12:42 pm

Jeff, the wind is supposed to be about 13-16mph, does that run north/south or a crosswind as the field lays……..?

JSS

December 12th, 2010
12:43 pm

Are you people still talking college football? Why? Why? Why?

Fig Newton

December 12th, 2010
12:44 pm

The Falcon’s offense should have no problem with crowd noise today

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
12:46 pm

Headley
Could it be because they deal with that crappy weather every year, but in Atlanta and in the South we don’t? I am not getting out in it if I don’t have too. Northerners have to be out in it for months so they don’t care. I don’t think you are going to find 80K Southern fans that want to deal with crappy weather on their day off. We know it will be gone in a day or two so why take the risk to just see a football game?

Headley Lamar

December 12th, 2010
12:50 pm

Could it be because they deal with that crappy weather every year, but in Atlanta and in the South we don’t? I am not getting out in it if I don’t have too.

Thats you. Alot of people wouldnt have a problem with it.

We know it will be gone in a day or two so why take the risk to just see a football game?

Umm because your a fan.

Northerners have to be out in it for months so they don’t care. I don’t think you are going to find 80K Southern fans that want to deal with crappy weather on their day off

Most people that live in Atlanta arent from the south anyway.

mountain_jim

December 12th, 2010
12:54 pm

Hope for a win and no injuries from the cruddy field today.

J.J.M.

December 12th, 2010
12:56 pm

Whopper Dawg

December 12th, 2010
12:58 pm

This is a very important game in another aspect. If we bear Carolina twice and the Seahawks, we can lose to NO on MNF and still have homefield throughout the playoffs no matter what the other teams do. All the tiebreakers are in our favor, check it out.

F-10

December 12th, 2010
12:58 pm

I hope New England loses today & we win, maybe then when we have the best record in football the stupid media will give us the respect we deserve!

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
1:02 pm

Headley You are right many are not from here and that Nice Winter Weather is one of the reasons they moved here.
Did you see the pictures of the Metrodome? That was freaking crazy.
I am a fan I just like to enjoy my game experience. Sitting in cold rainy conditions is not pleasurable to me. If you want to go then I say more power to you.
I can’t see one good reason to BUY an outside stadium. It can’t doing think to help the team that WINNING can’t do in a place we already have.

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Jeff Schultz

December 12th, 2010
1:03 pm

Hello . . . Back . . . Kickoff . . .

Jeff Schultz

December 12th, 2010
1:04 pm

One play. One fumble …. Fans booing, at least those who are here. Place is half-empty. …

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
1:05 pm

Not many people in the seats.
Great TO
Stomp on the gas right here

J.J.M.

December 12th, 2010
1:06 pm

lol come on turner you have to score on that

mountain_jim

December 12th, 2010
1:06 pm

I expected a challange on that fumble

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
1:06 pm

Damn he need the TD right there.

Jeff Schultz

December 12th, 2010
1:06 pm

Dang. That was too easy. 4 snaps into the game, it’s 7-0 Falcons.

5150 P.O.A.D.

December 12th, 2010
1:07 pm

Tony G with a TD catch.

Frozen Rope

December 12th, 2010
1:07 pm

Well,, that was easy