Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

Dec 25, 2016, 01:19
Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

-Falcons DE/OLB Vic Beasley vs. Carolina RT Trai Turner.

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons knew coming into the season that the road to the NFC South championship would go through Carolina. Tight end Austin Hooper (knee) and linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (concussion) will not play. The Falcons used Deion Jones to spy Cam Newton, but now have more options. Playing on natural grass will be good for his turf toe.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Panthers DT Kawann Short.

Ryan, just named the NFC starting quarterback for the Pro Bowl, would be the first to say he'd trade in all the individual accolades for a shot at a Super Bowl. The Falcons looked like, well, the 2015 version of the Panthers, whose only blemish last season was a December loss at the Georgia Dome. After breaking a streak of three consecutive games completing less than 50 percent of his passes a week ago, Newton was 18 of 43 - 41.8 percent - for 198 yards and two interceptions.

Jones leads the league in receiving yards with 1,253 and receptions of 20 yards or more (29).

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, on the other hand, is struggling. RB Jonathan Stewart has four rushing TDs in the past four games at home. Now, the Falcons pack up quickly and head out so they can watch the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the New Orleans Saints, a game that could end with the Falcons clinching the playoffs. Thomas Davis lost Coleman out of the backfield on 3rd-and-21, and Coleman went for 31 yards up the left sideline for the first down.

Neal missed the first few games of the season after suffering a knee injury and undergoing minor surgery to fix it. The chance to hamper a fierce rival's playoff hopes, plus Newton's increased production of late, should lead to the NFC South going down to Week 17.

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