TARGET ON RYAN
The Panthers harassed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the first meeting, sacking him seven times in Atlantas 30-28 win. The total tied a Panthers record and was the most allowed by Atlanta in Ryans five seasons. After the game, Fox cameras caught Ryan yelling: Get the (expletive) off the field! Several Panthers players said they havent forgotten Ryans comment and planned to make him pay. Defensive end Greg Hardy vowed to put Ryan on the ground where he belongs. Buckle up.
Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura was the goat in the Week 4 matchup, allowing Roddy White to get behind him for a 59-yard catch in the final minute to set up Matt Bryants game-winning field goal. That play and others like it prompted the Panthers to give Nakamura a part-time role. But with free safety Sherrod Martin on injured reserve and strong safety Charles Godfrey questionable with a back injury, Nakamura figures to be in the middle of the action. If Ryan doesnt pick on Nakamura, look for him to go after rookie safety D.J. Campbell.
CAM CATCHING ON
Quarterback Cam Newton has accounted for eight touchdowns with no turnovers over the past three games, and is responsible for 12 touchdowns and two turnovers over the past five. Newton is making better decisions, and coaches are giving him more freedom to make pre-snap checks and audibles. Newton, 0-3 vs. the Falcons, would love to beat his hometown team.
The Charlotte Observer
3.5 Sacks by DE Charles Johnson in first meeting with Falcons, a Panthers record. Carolinas seven sacks in the game tied a team record.
42 100-yard receiving games for Steve Smith, tied for 11th all-time, after his 120-yard effort last week at Kansas City.
84 Days since Panthers last won a game at home a Week 2 victory vs. New Orleans. Panthers 1-5 home record is the worst in the NFC.
84 Consecutive passes by Cam Newton without an interception, dating to his final throw in a loss to Denver in Week 10.
2 Wins needed over the final four games for the Falcons, who have clinched the NFC South, to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
31 Point total in the first four games of their five-game winning streak against the Panthers. In Week 4 this season in Atlanta, the Falcons won 30-28.
45.6 Third-down conversion rate (72 of 158), which ranks second in the NFL behind only New Englands 52.6.
59 Seconds remaining when the Matt Ryan and the Falcons took over at their 1, trailing 28-27, in the first meeting with the Panthers.