CHARLOTTE — Good morning. When I walked out of the deck parking lot toward the media entrance of the stadium (a healthy walk here at Bank of America Stadium), there was only a slight drizzle. But a few minutes later, the skies opened up, I got drenched and it totally ruined my coiffure.
(Go ahead, I’ll give you a few minutes to laugh. … Waiting. … Still waiting. … )
So yes, it is raining here in Charlotte. The forecast says there’s only a 10 percent chance of showers, but that 10 percent clearly resides on this block. So at the very least, the field will be slippery for the Falcons’ game against the Carolina Panthers today.
Some folks around the Falcons are worried about this game. The Panthers are only 3-9 but seven of those losses have come by six points or less (one in overtime). The Falcons were fortunate to rally and beat Carolina 30-28 on a last-minute field goal drive in Week 4.
Tackle Tyson Clabo said of the Panthers, “They’re the exact opposite team of us. They’re in every game but somehow they find a way lose. We’re in every game and we find a way to win. It only takes a bounce of the ball here or there to change the whole thing. They’re a good team and they’ll be at home.”
The X-factor for Carolina obviously is Cam Newton. Every week it seems like there are new stories that quote anonymous players, questioning Newton’s attitude and leadership. Personally, I don’t like anonymous quotes. But the questions about Newton’s maturity have been there from day one so it will be interesting to see how he reacts to all of this and whether he grows from it. If he goes in the wrong direction, the Panthers are sunk because they’ve invested a lot in him from a financial and marketing standpoint.
Back to the Falcons. At 11-1, they’ve already clinched a playoff berth and the NFC South Division. They can clinch one of the top two seeds — and therefore a first-round bye — with a win over Carolina and ONE of the following two scenarios: 1) A San Francisco loss (home vs. Miami: OR 2) Chicago loss or tie (at Minnesota) and a Green Bay loss or tie (home vs. Detroit). A tie with Carolina and losses by Chicago and Green Bay also would clinch the bye.
The Falcons would clinch the NFC’s No. 1 seed and home field through the playoffs with a win, AND a loss by San Francisco AND losses or ties by Chicago and Green Bay.
With college football winding down (pre-bowls), the amount of Falcons’ content in the AJC went up this week. Here’s a sampling, with links:
– My column on the Falcons realizing they have some flaws to correct in these final four games.
– Barrister Ledbetter’s Q-and-A with wide receiver Julio Jones.
– Ledbetter’s story on Jacquizz Rodgers’ work load possibly going up.
– Tim Tucker’s story on how the Falcons’ proposed new stadium deal breaks down.
Here’s a link to the AJC’s Falcons page if you’re looking for more.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll post the inactives in the comments section below.
Any thoughts on today’s game? And what are you hoping to see from the Falcons today?
I’m here to serve.
By Jeff Schultz