TALE OF THE TAPE

Week 14: Atlanta Falcons At Carolina Panthers

Falcons
Panthers
Wild Card Playoffs - Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants
Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints
Quarterback
Winner Quarterback Matt Ryan continues his sensational season. The sting of criticism that he received in the offseason continues to motivate Ryan to play his best every week. Ryan is an accurate passer with a quick release. He has the quick feet to avoid pressure and he usually makes the proper decision before releasing the ball.
This will be a tough assignment for second-year quarterback Cam Newton. He had a solid game in the Week 13 loss to the Chiefs, throwing three TD passes without an interception. Still, Newton’s decision-making has been quite questionable this year and when he makes mistakes, he has a hard time shaking them off and moving on to the next play.
Offense
Winner The Falcons have a decent running game with Michael Turner, but wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are special. Turner is not explosive at this point in his career, but he runs with effort and knows how to get the last few inches out of every attempt. White will catch anything he can get his hands on and Jones is a sensational deep threat.
The Panthers have talented players but they rarely play up to that level on the offensive side of the ball. DeAngelo Williams is a good but not great back at this point. Steve Smith is coming off one of his best games of the season, catching five passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Greg Olsen is a big-play threat at the tight end position.
Defense
Winner The Falcons are smart and well-positioned on defense and they are also very fast. They are not the biggest and strongest defensive team, but they make plays when it matters. Safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore have combined for nine interceptions. Defensive end John Abraham does not have young legs anymore and may need to be spotted but he has 10.0 sacks.
The Panthers are not functioning efficiently on the defensive end despite the presence of some decent talent. When you make Brady Quinn look like a decent quarterback, there are problems. Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly is one of the best tacklers on the team while defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have combined for 16.5 sacks.
Special Teams
Winner The Falcons are confident in placekicker Matt Bryant, who has made 29-of-34 field goal attempts this season. Bryant is 4-of-4 on attempts of 50 yards or longer. Matt Bosher is averaging 47.9 yards per punt. Jacquizz Rodgers can be an explosive kickoff returner.
The Panthers have been lax on special teams and their coverage weaknesses have hurt them this season. Much of that is due to the inadequate punting of Brad Nortman, who is averaging 42.6 yards per punt and he has a net average of 36.2 yards per punt

The Winner Is

Wild Card Playoffs - Atlanta Falcons v New York Giants
Winner Falcons
4 out of 4

The Falcons are now in the home stretch of the regular season and they want homefield advantage throughout the postseason. While they are in a great position with just four weeks to go, head coach Mike Smith is not going to let up in a game against an underachieving Panthers team.

MORE TALES OF THE TAPE

  1. OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons signals to his team during their NFL game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints hands off to Mark Ingram #22 during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 18, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
    Week 3 Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At New Orleans Saints

    The NFC South rivals meet in the Big Easy with Brees and company looking for their first win.

  2. CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19: Danny Trevathan #59 and Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears
stop Ryan Mathews #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles
at Soldier Field on September 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Eagels defeated the Bears 29-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates with teammates center Travis Frederick #72 and offensive guard La\'el Collins #71 after scoring a third quarter touchdown against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 18, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Week 3 Tale Of The Tape: Chicago Bears At Dallas Cowboys

    The Cowboys rookies have looked good the first two weeks, now they get the winless and injury plagued Bears at home.

  3. PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Xavier Grimble #85 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates his touchdown with Ben Roethlisberger #7 in the first quarter during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Heinz Field on September 18, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 19:  Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles hands off the football to Ryan Mathews #24 in the first half against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 19, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
    Week 3 Tale Of The Tape: Pittsburgh Steelers At Philadelphia Eagles

    The two Pennsylvania teams have gotten off to 2-0 starts. Who will win the battle for interstate bragging rights?

See All Tales of the Tape

More From CBS Atlanta

Watch Dukes & Bell Live
Taz Goes Big With A New Daily Show!
Enter NOW

Watch & Listen