By Austin Payne
In what should prove to be a fairly irrelevant game as far as season success is measured, the ailing Falcons will face the controversy stricken Panthers this Sunday in Atlanta for the second time this season. In one of the more perplexing stints of their season, the Birds managed to blowout both New Orleans and the Panthers in back to back division rivalry games earlier in November. Why you ask? We may never know.
Having just come off a six game losing streak, losing Devonta Freeman, and trading Sanu, it’s easy to question what exactly the point of continuing to try to win games is if you’re the Falcons. Why are we still playing Matt Ryan? Why are you putting an also injured Devonta Freeman at risk? Why is the franchise cornerstone, Julio Jones still on the field? These are questions we will likely never have answered, although it’s safe to assume it’s strictly for the fans at this point, and the people who are, for some reason, spending money to go see them play.
Neither of these teams will be making the playoffs, and though the Panthers may have briefly had hope of joining the wildcard club after some surprisingly decent play from Cam Newton’s replacement I mean Kyle Allen, we all knew this is what it would come to eventually. The lone bright spot for the Falcons is…well never mind. The Panthers on the other hand, at least have Christian McCaffrey to look forward to for years to come, and potentially, based on what he’s show, Kyle Allen as well.
The real relevancy of this game will come in the off-season, and though it seems like the season just started, we’re already almost through it, and teams are starting to think about draft season. This game will have drafting position implications for both teams, and as we all know that means thinking about the future of the franchises. How much longer do the Falcons try with this core? I have a sneaky suspicion Freeman may be on the way out, and how much longer do you give Dan Quinn?
As for the Panthers, is Kyle Allen the future? Do you hang onto Ron Rivera? Do you shop Cam Newton, and if so, what kind of haul could they get in return for him? (https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/cam-newton-trade-bears-mitchell-trubisky-panthers/3o627abd560d1tnqhzp2l3pmy)
There are a lot of question marks and offseason storylines that will follow both of these teams for weeks to come.
Logically speaking, both teams should be trying to lose this game to garner the highest possible draft position in April. However, we both know that isn’t going to happen, because they both embody the position of “giving it your all” and obviously the owners want to put on a show for their paying customer. So nevertheless, expect a competitive game this Sunday, or at least more so than the last matchup.