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 Post subject: Panthers In Trouble, Falcons on Track As Second Half Looms
PostPosted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 3:24 pm 
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Panthers in trouble, Falcons on track as second half looms

By Scott Adamson (Contact)
Monday, November 9, 2009

At the midpoint of the 2009 National Football League season, the Carolina Panthers have already matched their loss total from the entire 2008 campaign.

The Atlanta Falcons, which entered 2008 lightly regarded, was a surprising 5-3 after eight games — the same record at the same point of the 2009 slate. Expectations, of course, are much higher this time around.

A year ago these NFC South rivals were left to settle postseason positioning among themselves, and the battle for the division title and wildcard playoff spot came down to the last week of the regular season.

Things are much different this fall.

The New Orleans Saints have likely already secured a division crown, with an 8-0 record good enough for a three-game lead over Atlanta and a five-game cushion over the Panthers. Barring a truly bizarre finish to the second half of the season, the Falcons’ only route to the playoffs will come via the wildcard while the Panthers will need a football miracle to play a 17th game.

Although Jon Fox’s club has played reasonably well the past two weeks, the club hasn’t played well enough to make much headway. In 2008, it took Carolina five months to lose five games, the last coming in the infamous home playoff loss to Arizona.

It took the team just nine weeks to drop five this season.

Not only are the Panthers a distant third behind the Saints, they are two games back of the Falcons. And having already lost to the top two teams in the division, earning a playoff berth would be an astonishing accomplishment.

There are nine teams in the NFC with better records than Carolina, and the team comes up short in potential tie-breaker scenarios with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles due to head-to-head losses.

The 30-20 setback to the Saints was especially disheartening. The Panthers led 14-0 early and 17-6 at the half, only to see the hosts rally.

“We just came up a little short,” Fox said. “It was kinda like how I coached and how the rest of us played. We just came up short.”

Quarterback Jake Delhomme has been mostly mistake-free the past two games after a horrid start, but is still having trouble moving the markers through the air.

Carolina is ranked 24th in passing offense and 21st in total offense.

Delhomme has just 1,463 passing yards with five touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

“Being 4-4 would’ve been great, especially beating a team of this caliber,” he said. “We’ve got to say as a team nobody is going to rescue us.”

The brightest spot for the Panthers has been the running game, which ranks 3rd in the NFL with a 153-yard per game average. And DeAngelo Williams had another big stat day on Sunday, although his late-game fumble ended any chance for an upset.

The prospects for the Falcons are much brighter.

Only three NFC teams have a better record than Atlanta and, for the most part, Mike Smith’s team is winning games it’s supposed to win. Sunday’s victory over Washington snapped a two-game losing skid, and gives the club momentum heading into Sunday’s clash with Carolina at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

A road win would give the Falcons a season sweep of the Panthers, and all but end any postseason hopes for last year’s NFC South champions.

“We’re 5-3 at the halfway point,” Smith said. “Beyond the next two ballgames I really can’t tell you who we’ll play. I know we have to go to Carolina next week in a division game and then we head up to play the New York Giants.

“We try to be forward thinking, but not too forward thinking.”

Still the schedule eases up a bit for Atlanta the rest of the way, with a pair of games against one-win Tampa Bay. It also gets a rematch with New Orleans in December at the Georgia Dome.

If the squad takes care of business in the second half it should be in solid position to grab one of the two available wildcard spots.

Atlanta is ranked 17th in total offense and 19th in passing offense. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been spotty through eight games, but running back Michael Turner appears to have hit his stride in the last two outings.

Ryan is simply pleased that his team is a factor as the second half of the season begins in five days.

“The important thing is that we’re in the mix,” Ryan said. “Now it’s going to come down to how we play in November and December. These last two months are crucially important to our football team. Our goal is to make sure we win as many games as possible down the stretch.”

Sunday’s matchup between the Falcons and Panthers is set for a 1 p.m. kickoff.

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 Post subject: Re: Panthers In Trouble, Falcons on Track As Second Half Looms
PostPosted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:22 pm 
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I think people have a tendency to overlook the Panthers because of their slow start, but from what I've seen, they've played fairly good football the past few weeks. And I think at this point in the year, we are pretty evenly matched. I thought that was the case in Week 2, and being at home gave us the edge. It might give them the edge.

I think this is a critical game in the season. While I think the Falcons can afford to lose this game and still make the playoffs, it makes our margin for error immensely smaller.

But it's to the point that I think winning/losing this game could determine this team's fate for January.

The still tried and true how to beat the Panthers gameplan is in effect. Pressure Delhomme early, get him rattled, and slow down the running game. And limit how many big plays Steve Smith can make. And for gosh sakes, somebody block Julius Peppers!

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 Post subject: Re: Panthers In Trouble, Falcons on Track As Second Half Looms
PostPosted: Wed Nov 11, 2009 5:52 pm 
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Peppers was invisible last week, but your right he is a threat. Hopefully, Abraham continues his wrath from the old days against the Panthers to this game coming up. This isn't a must win game, but everyone should feel that we need to win so we can those hatred Panties eliminated. A sweep of Carolina would be SHWEET!!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Panthers In Trouble, Falcons on Track As Second Half Looms
PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:56 am 
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I think its a must win...... New York, Philly, and the Saints again can be loses, but we need the rest and finish 10-6.

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 Post subject: Re: Panthers In Trouble, Falcons on Track As Second Half Looms
PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:12 am 
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My personal take is that this game is a must win. We lost to Dallas and New Orleans, teams that are, on paper, better than our team. We soundly defeated Washington, a team that is well below us. I believe that Carolina is, "in our neighborhood," in terms of talent/performance. They're getting worse, we're getting better.

If you look at the numbers, the combined record of the teams we have beaten is 15 and 25 (one team with a .500 record). The record of the teams we have lost to is 20 and 4. We need to continue beating the teams that are .500 or worse. Carolina is one such team, and we really need to put them away. The rest of our schedule is not a cakewalk. We have to play 4 more games against teams with records of .500 or better. If we want to ensure that we finish with 9 wins, and break the back to back curse, we need to win the games against teams with sub-500 records. If we can squeeze out wins against the Giants, the Eagles, the Saints, or the Jets, then that's just icing on the cake. I believe that we can handle the Jets. The Eagles, Giants, and Saints are going to be very tough.

Again, if we want to prove that we are no longer, "the old Falcons," then this week's game is a must win.


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 Post subject: Re: Panthers In Trouble, Falcons on Track As Second Half Looms
PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2009 3:14 am 
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Quote:
.... New York, Philly, and the Saints again can be loses, ....


Ironically, the biggest games that would go a long way to assuring us a WC spot would be defeating both the Giants and the Eagles, since the standings right now have them directly behind us. One of the other threads shows us taking the #5 seed right now due to our Strength of victory over the Eagles. So defeating them would give us the better tie breaker, as well as a game up in the standings. Ditto for the Giants.

Frankly, the games we NEED to win are the two against Tampa, the Panthers, the Bills (cause there's not excuse for not winning that game), the Giants and the Eagles. That'd give us a 11-5, and basically a lock on the #5 seed.

So yes, we need to win this game. It'll be tight, and not the end of the world if we don't, but man would it give us a good leg up moving forward.

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