Mathematically, the Atlanta Falcons can keep on losing and still hold on to their playoff hopes and chances. But if the Carolina Panthers beat them to make it a six game losing streak, and they have the potential to do in a rather flashy way, one that’s difficult to come back from.
This is the NFC South, which tends to make initially obvious division games into something completely different. But the Panthers are 12-0, with 16 consecutive regular season wins, and quite hungry to finish the job of clinching home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They beat the Falcons in an all-or-nothing game last season, and now have two games in three weeks against them, with the opportunity to make sure their collapse in the second half of the season is even more humiliating.
The Falcons have lost five in a row and six of the last seven. The blaming game keeps moving from name to name and position to position. But it’s safe to say Dan Quinn is losing control over what’s happening on the field, Kyle Shanahan, with a simple or not offensive scheme and plan isn’t making the right decisions and Matt Ryan simply plays like someone zapped out his common sense and ability, especially when it comes to red zone plays.
With the Panthers tendency to make turnovers become extremely painful and expensive, and the Falcons recent problems in holding on to the ball, be it Ryan himself or other position players, this sounds like a field day for one of the most aggressive and opportunistic defenses in the league. Sure, the Panthers made plenty of defensive mistakes in the narrow win over the Saints a week before, but this is at home, and not against Drew Brees.
Even if the Falcons lose, they’re still in the hunt for the Wild Card, although it’s getting away from them as we speak. But a crushing blow in Charlotte against a team that hasn’t shown any affiliation with mercy and tenderness in the way they’ve beaten opponents when they smell blood, seems like a fitting end to a season that started so well and almost out of nowhere turned into a trainwreck which keeps getting worse.