With a win Sunday, the Panthers will clinch the NFC South and the second seed in the NFC. The Falcons have had many weaknesses exposed in recent weeks—from missed tackles to the inability to stop big plays. Atlanta's cracks have been shown.
Carolina holds the advantage going into Sunday's matchup and is in great shape to gain some momentum as the playoffs begin.
Run DeAngelo Ragged
The Panthers do a handful of things well but none quite as well as running the ball. DeAngelo Williams has put up great numbers over the past few weeks, posting 148 rushing yards and two total touchdowns in his past two games.
Atlanta has allowed 100-plus rushing yards every week since Week 4, including 131 yards to the Panthers in their first meeting.
The Falcons are the 31st-ranked run defense in the league, setting Williams up for a big game. He will be incredibly key to Carolina's offensive success as it will look to control the clock and win the chess match against Atlanta's defense.
Play Physical Against Tony Gonzalez
With Atlanta's receiving corps decimated by injury, Tony Gonzalez has been Matt Ryan's security blanket and the reason for most of its offensive success, albeit there hasn't been much.
If the athletic secondary of Carolina can cover Gonzalez and take him out of the game, then it will be tough for Atlanta to get anything done offensively as it won't have much luck running the ball against the defensive line of the Panthers.
Gonzalez had six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort in Week 9, but now that the Panthers have become more established as a unit, they should be able to challenge him even more this time around.
Let Luke Kuechly Do His Thing
Luke Kuechly has garnered much attention this season and is deep in debate for the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. His 24 tackles last Sunday tied the record for the most in a single game since they began recording the stat in 1994.
He's tallied 146 tackles so far this season and consistently makes an impact each and every week. He's currently third in the league in tackles and is building quite a reputation for himself as one of the most instinctive linebackers in the league.
The Panthers need to just let him cause havoc along the offensive front of Atlanta and make the defensive calls as he sees fit.
Overall, the Panthers simply need to have a clean game and play it safe against the lesser Falcons, and they will hold the advantage heading into the playoffs.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference