Nov 3, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) gets sacked by Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95) during the game at Bank of America Stadium. Panthers win 34-10. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Panthers Keys to Victory

A big time showdown is in store this Sunday for Carolina and their fans.  If the Panthers can win they will clinch the division outright and keep their hopes alive for a 1 seed in the NFC.  Here are your keys to victory for the Panthers Falcons game.

Run the Ball

This one is pretty obvious.  The Panthers are a team built to pound the ball, averaging 126 rushing yards a game.  The Falcons also boast the league’s second worst run defense giving up an average of 135.9 yards a game.  This is an obvious mismatch and one the Panthers should look to exploit.  As stated earlier this week Deangelo Williams is one of our x-factors for this game.  He should be able to pound the rock all day with Tolbert, fresh off his first pro bowl invitation, looking to bruise any defender silly enough to get in his way.  If the Panthers can find success in the run game they will be able to control the clock and keep Matt Ryan off the field.

Make Steven Jackson Look Old

Steven Jackson has quietly had solid games these last few weeks.  He has not piled up yards but he has 5 touchdowns in his last 4 games.  Steven is a grinder and works hard to make sure he can still perform at a high level.  Thought to be the answer to Atlanta’s run problems, instead it seems Steven finally has too much tread on the tires.  If the defense can hold him in check, it will force the Falcons to become one dimensional and allow the Panthers to get after Matt Ryan, leading into our next key.

Get Pressure on Matty Ice

Matt Ryan is one of the league’s premiere quarterbacks.  If he is allowed to sit back in the pocket he can pick just about any defense apart.  The Panthers strength all year has been their front 7.  They are able to get pressure rushing 4 lineman every play. Lately however, Sean McDermott has been using defensive backs and linebackers to send added pressure.  It was crucial to their win over the Saints and that gameplan will likely carry over into this one.  If the Panthers get around 5 sacks this game, that should be enough to rattle the usually clutch Matt Ryan and force him into some costly mistakes.

Do Not Let Tony Gonzalez Go Off

This is likely Tony Gonzalez’s last game as a professional football player.  The Falcons will be having a retirement ceremony for Tony.  Add onto the fact he will be playing his I-85 rivals and he has all the motivation he needs to perform in his last game in the NFL.  If the Panthers’ linebackers can play physical and throw him off of his timing on routes, he should falter.  Tony lit up the Panthers in the first half of their last meeting, but following halftime adjustments, was completely shut down.  If the Panthers can recreate that for the entire game the Falcons’ offense should struggle to move the ball.

There you have it Panthers fans, the keys to the team’s victory.  If the Panthers can follow the gameplan they have used all season, then this should be an easy victory.  Cam Newton and Charles Johnson will return to their home state and look to play hard for their friends and family in the area.  The Panthers have practiced with the focus of a division champion all week.  Cat Crave prediction for the game:  Panthers win 27-10.

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