Atlanta Falcons vs. Carolina Panthers: Falcons Can't Overlook NFC South Foe

Ryan ComstockCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2010

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 28:  Michael Turner #33 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes for a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers at Georgia Dome on November 28, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

At 1-11, the Carolina Panthers are having the worst season in the NFL. Unlike Detroit and Buffalo, they haven't been taking teams down to the wire en route to their poor record, either.

One of their closest games of the year, however, came in Week 4, a two-point loss to the Saints in New Orleans.

This is something the Falcons need to take note of.

Obviously, the Panthers have no chance to make the playoffs. The only thing they have to play for is pride and beating a hated rival. Potentially derailing a division-winning season in the process is the only real motivation they'll have against Atlanta.

Working in the Falcons' favor, Carolina has been smoked at home by its other division foes, New Orleans and Tampa Bay, by a combined score of 54-10.

The Panthers have a solid pass defense (eight overall), but are near the bottom of the league against the run, giving up over 130 YPG—meaning Michael Turner should have a nice day for his team and fantasy owners.

Bank of America Stadium is where Turner suffered the ankle sprain that would ultimately end his 2009-10 season, so hopefully he does not have any flashbacks.

In the midst of a three-game road trip, the Falcons will likely hope they can put this one away early and rest their starters. It would be incredibly easy, though, to look past the Panthers in anticipation of their upcoming showdowns with Seattle and New Orleans.

If that is the case, we could have the biggest upset of the season on our hands.

Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is currently listed as questionable after hurting his left ankle against the Buccaneers, but he says he will play.

Jason Snelling, who missed last week's game, is also questionable, and there has not yet been any word on how his hamstring is doing.

Atlanta's defense has been playing well this year, and against the NFL's lowest scoring offense, they could pad their stats a bit.

As long as they don't get ahead of the themselves, the Falcons should come away with a victory in this one.

Anything else would be a severe disappointment.