Fresh off their second NFC South title in three years, the Atlanta Falcons are turning their focus to locking up the conference's No. 1 overall seed. They can take a big step toward doing so when they face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.
With a 2.5-game lead over No. 2 seed San Francisco, Atlanta has some breathing room in the race to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. But a misstep at 3-9 Carolina could prove disastrous for a Falcons team trying to assert itself as the NFC's top squad. Sunday's game will also be a test for cornerback Asante Samuel, who left last week's game against New Orleans because of a recurring shoulder problem. With nine days to rest, Atlanta is hopeful its top defensive back will be available down the stretch.
For Carolina, Sunday's game is just one more step toward the end of what's been a brutally disappointing season. The Panthers have lost three of their last four games, including an unexpected defeat at the hands of one-win Kansas City last Sunday, 27-21. Head coach Ron Rivera will likely be fired at season's end, leaving the team to find a new coach to rebuild the roster around Cam Newton.
Sunday, Dec. 9, 1 p.m. ET
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Panthers: WCCB FOX 18
Falcons: WATL 36
Verizon subscribers can watch games live with the NFL Mobile app (subscription required).
NFL Game Pass offers live online broadcasts to users outside the USA.
Panthers: 1110 AM WBT
Falcons: Star 94 (94.1 FM/790 AM)