5 things to know before today’s Falcons at Panthers’ kickoff

October 2, 2016 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws against the Carolina Panthers in the Georgia Dome Sunday October 2, 2016. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

October 2, 2016 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws against the Carolina Panthers in the Georgia Dome Sunday October 2, 2016. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Here are 5 things to mull over before today’s 1 p.m. kickoff between the Atlanta Falcons (9-5) and the Carolina Panthers (6-8) at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

1. HOW THE FALCONS CLINCH A PLAYOFF BERTH: Here’s what has to happen for the Falcons to clinch a playoff berth:

ATLANTA FALCONS (9-5) at Carolina (6-8)

Atlanta clinches NFC South division title with:

  1. ATL win + TB loss or tie OR
  2. ATL tie + TB loss

Atlanta clinches a playoff berth with:

  1. ATL win + ATL clinches strength of victory tiebreaker over DET OR
  2. ATL win or tie + GB loss or tie OR
  3. ATL win + DET loss or tie OR
  4. ATL tie + DET tie OR
  5. WAS loss or tie + GB loss OR
  6. WAS loss or tie + GB tie + DET loss

2. REVIEW OF GAME ONE: The Falcons defeated the Panthers 48-33 in a game that was a one-score affair with 1:53 to play on Oct. 2 at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons opened a 34-10 lead, but could close out the Panthers until cornerback Robert Alford returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown with 1:14 to play.

Here’s the REPORT CARD from Game One vs. Carolina. 

3. THREE KEY MATCHUPS: Here’s a look at three key matchups:

Falcons DE/OLB Vic Beasley vs. Carolina RT Darull Williams: Beasley is having a breakthrough season as he leads the NFL is sacks (14.5) and forced fumbles (six). He will play defensive end in the nickel and was seen spying San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick from linebacker last week. Trai Turner, a Pro Bowl guard, slid out to right tackle when Williams went down in the Oakland game. Turner moves back inside to guard as Williams returns from a high ankle sprain.

Falcons RB Devonta Freeman vs. Panthers LB A.J. Klein: A week after being held to 6 yards on six carries, Freeman was named the NFC offensive player of the week for his bounce-back performance against San Francisco. He rushed 20 times for 139 yards (7.0 per carry) and three touchdowns. He now has 12 total touchdowns, which is tied for fifth in the league. Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was cleared through the concussion protocol, but Klein continued to man the spot for the Panthers against Washington. He had five tackles and one for a loss against the Redskins.Falcons’ wide receivers vs. Panthers cornerbacks: Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones had 12 catches for 300 yards against the Panthers on Oct. 2. Early in the season, the Panthers’ revamped secondary without out Josh Norman was clearly having problems. Promising rookies James Bradberry and Daryl Worley start for the Panthers. Bradberry, a second-round pick from Samford, is the left cornerback and Worley, a third-round pick from West Virginia, plays on the right side. Taylor Gabriel, Aldrick Robinson and Mohamed Sanu have all stepped to replace Jones over the past two games.

4. TALE OF THE TAPE: 2016 Regular Season Statistics Rankings:

Falcons                                            Panthers
33.5 (1)            Points/Game                       24.1 (14)
412.9 (2)         Total Offense                       347.3 (17)
116.7 (8)          Net Rushing Yards/Game 111.9 (10)
296.1 (3)         Net Passing Yards/Game 235.4 (19)
30:02 (19)     Possession Average               30:59 (7)
25.6 (26t)      Opponent Points/Game       25.1 (25)
368.9 (25)      Opponent Total Offense      360.6 (22)
101.5 (15)        Opp. Rushing Yards/Game  85.8 (3)
267.4 (30)       Opp. Passing Yards/Game  274.8 (32)
+8 (4t)m          Turnover Differential                +1 (17)
5. NFL OFFICIALS: The Vinovich Crew — R: Bill Vinovich (52), FJ: Michael Banks (72), U: Bruce Stritesky (102), SJ: Gary Cavaletto (60), HL: Phil McKinnely (110), BJ: Greg Meyer (78), LJ: Mark Pearlman (9), RO: Darryll Lewis.

The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter & Noah Coslov chat about Julio Jones’ status, what makes this Falcons team different than years past & the teams that Falcons don’t want to see in the playoffs.

GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the 49ers

What Matt Ryan had to say about the win over the 49ers

PHOTOS: Falcons win over the 49ers

GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14

REPORT CARD: Falcons handled their business against woeful Rams

GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Chiefs

Falcons still control their playoff destiny

PHOTOS: Falcons have a bad day at the office

Matt Ryan tormented by Berry’s big interceptions

Beasley becomes a double-digit sacker

GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the Cardinals

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons keep getting better as they go

Julio Jones gets calls this time

Taylor Gabriel continues scoring streak in win over Cardinals

Coleman scores TD in return from injury

Falcons’ offensive line ‘stepped up to the task’

GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Eagles

Ryan, offense slowed down to a crawl

Perkins stalls key drive with costly penalty

Defense gets blown of the line of scrimmage

Keanu Neal can expect fine but Falcons’ biggest issue is injuries (Trufant and Tamme)

Falcons go into bye week wrong way — beat up by Eagles

What Dan Quinn had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What Matt Ryan had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What the Falcons had to say after the loss to the Eagles

PHOTOS: Falcons fall to the Eagles

GAME NINE: Falcons 43, Buccaneers 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ rout of the Bucs

GAME EIGHT: Falcons 33, Packers 32
 

GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Chargers

Dan Quinn’s gamble with house-money backfires

6 penalties ‘unacceptable’ for Falcons offensive line

Philip Rivers confounds Falcons with short passes: ‘He picked us apart’

Matt Ryan’s late-game interception leads to overtime loss

PHOTOS: Chargers rally to beat Falcons

GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Seahawks

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons didn’t win, but they made one guy believe (me)

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons got jobbed but did themselves proud

Matt Ryan’s turnovers were costly

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Seattle slows down Falcons’ running backs Freeman, Coleman

Ryan Schraeder, offensive line rebounds in second half

Julio Jones: ‘It was just a missed call’

What the Falcons had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Richard Sherman non-commital on pass interference non-call

PHOTOS: Falcons at Seahawks in Seattle

GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

5 things we learned from the Falcons upset of Super Bowl champs

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons rock a rookie in the Rockies

What Dan Quinn have to say after the win over Denver

Coleman amassed 163 yards to power the offense

Vic Beasley has breakout game with 3.5 sacks

Kemal Ishmael moved to linebacker, led team in tackles

What the Falcons had to say after the win over the Broncos

Photos: Falcons battle the Broncos

GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 48-33 win over the Panthers

Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

Old pro Freeney shows new trick with Falcons

Falcons’ rookie Neal holds on vs. Olsen

What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

Alford battled; Collins to return

Early view in NFC South isn’t what most expected; Falcons on top

GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 45-32 win over the Saints

Falcons, Saints protest with unity circle before game

REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What the Falcons had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

Keanu Neal makes strong debut for Falcons

Falcons’ Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home

AJC POWER RANKINGS: Falcons best in NFC South?

GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the Raiders

Trufant’s heads-up play saves the day

Tight ends help to power offense

Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013

Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less

JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders

GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Bucs

No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush

Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury

Falcons have a case of the “no-huddle” blues

REPORT CARD: Falcons can’t ‘gift’ opponents 17 points

FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action

AJC’S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?

Hageman charged is domestic violence case

 


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