With a win, the Falcons (9-6) clinch a wild-card spot and a chance to defend their NFC title. With a loss, Atlanta will need the Seahawks to lose to Arizona to get the final NFC playoff spot and a likely first-round trip to New Orleans or Los Angeles.
For the Panthers (11-4), who have already clinched a playoff spot, a win and a Saints loss will secure the NFC South title. If New Orleans, Minnesota and LA Rams are all defeated, Carolina will move up to the No. 2 slot and a first-round bye. A loss or a Saints victory will give the Panthers the fifth seed and a first-round matchup against the Saints or Rams.
Atlanta will be looking to avenge their loss to the Panthers in week 9. In that game, the Falcons saw a 17-0 second-quarter lead turn into a 20-17 defeat as the Panthers scored 20 unanswered points.
For Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, the pressure-packed situation of preparing a game with such stakes is just plain fun.
“I guess I get as excited because as a coach when you get in this environment, it’s as much fun as you can imagine. We get to control our own spot. I guess I wouldn’t say more excitement, but probably a little more excitement going into it and enjoying the buildup.”