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NFL Atlanta FalconsCarolina Panthers

Panthers vs. Falcons NFL Week 14 Preview

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers (3-9) and Atlanta Falcons (11-1) are set to kick-off this Sunday at 1:00 PM EST in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Panthers and NFC South Champion Falcons are two squads at polar ends of the spectrum in week 14.

The Panthers are playing for pride and the hope for any positive momentum heading into the offseason, while their Interstate-85 rival is playing to keep all of their positive vibes glowing heading into the much anticipated postseason.

So, it seems as if not much is on the line for either team, but that is simply not the case. These teams already put on quite a show during their first meeting in Atlanta back in week 4, the Falcons winning on a last second 40-yard field goal from kicker Matt Bryant.

Of course, both teams had high playoff aspirations at the time heading into their first division showdown of 2012, so it was pretty clear that a good game lied ahead. Indeed it was a great game, with the Panthers losing a heartbreaker they really never fully recovered from.

Now, in week 14 the stakes aren’t nearly as high for both teams coming into this matchup, but that doesn’t mean fans should go to bed on this one.

Things never are what they seem they are within the NFC South and every division battle has its own unique flare of tension that comes standard when two NFC South foes collide.

Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy took it upon himself to stir the pot stating in an Associated Press report, ‘”We owe them something and it is coming.”

Hardy also implied that his Panthers are an overall better team than the Falcons. Sure, that’s a bold statement, but somebody on Panthers needed to show a little off-field fire and perhaps they should have shown a little more fire throughout this disappointing season.

Hardy’s words did in fact stir the pot and evoked plenty of responses from Falcons’ players.

Then again this all seems normal in the NFC South and come Sunday you can throw these two teams’ records out the window because it is sure to be a hard-hitting battle with some dynamic offense sprinkled in.

Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1