This week the Falcons and Panthers have their first game against each other in Charlotte.  In the past few years, Atlanta has gone into the game with the better record, however this season it’s a different story.

This year, the Falcons come into this game with a record of 2-5, while Carolina is 4-3.  This is a game that Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez says they really need to win in order to stay alive in the playoff race.

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“I like our chances (laughs), they’re not good chances,” Gonzalez said. “I’m an optimistic person, I’m gonna keep pluggin and I expect my teammates to do the same thing.”

Tony and his teammates face a Carolina team that has played them tough the last few seasons, when the script was flipped and the Panthers had a worse record. Like last season, the Falcons beat the Panthers on a last second field goal to win 30-28 inside the Georgia Dome.  Then, later on in the season Carolina got the best of the Falcons at their place 30-20.  Since the Panthers last made the Playoffs in 2008, the Falcons have won seven out of 10 meetings between the two teams.  Falcons safety William Moore says that might be the case, but Carolina always gives them a test.

“Not matter what Carolina’s record is, for some odd reason it’s always a cat fight when we go up against them,” Moore said. “Here, there, wherever we’re at they show up to play us.”

Last year, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was shown on Fox’s TV broadcast yelling for the Panthers “get off his field” in a more profane way than we can mention after Matt Bryant’s field goal inside the Dome.

“It happens, that’s part of the game it happens,” Ryan said. “They certainly got after us the second time we went up there.”

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When looking at this rivalry from the coaching perspective, both team’s head coaches share a similar viewpoint on this matchup.  The fact it is fueled by the proximity of Charlotte to Atlanta is what makes this game unique.  Falcons head coach Mike Smith knows this is the case.

“Our fans can travel when we go to Charlotte and their fans can come when they come here to Atlanta,” Smith said. “They’ve been some very tight games, very physical football games and we anticipate that’s what it’s going to be again this week.”

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera shares the same sentiments and looks at this rivalry from the respect factor.

“The big thing about the Atlanta game for us is that we’re so close,” Rivera said. “Its kind of like being brothers, you want to beat your brother when you get the chance and at the same time you know who they are.”

That said, Atlanta native and Panthers starting quarterback Cam Newton is trying to squash all the trash talk and keep the game on the field.

“Well there’s nothing really different, this is a very important game,” Newton said. “Why is it very important? Because it’s out next game.”

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While both sides are kind of tempering the trash talk for this game, the moral of the story is we will be seeing a highly contested and at times contentious football game on Sunday. Why do we know this?  That’s because, the games have been that way in the past few years.