While the Panthers are packing for an important business trip to Atlanta, the Falcons are in a position where they could choose to simply pack it in.
But that's not the way the Falcons plan to go out, not with an NFC South rival coming to town and with future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez set to call it a career.
"I won't let any of my teammates pack it up," Falcons wide receiver Roddy White said. "We'll be excited to go out there and play and shake up some things in the NFC, and we want to go out with a victory for Tony."
It's been a difficult year for White, slowed by injuries most of the season, and for the Falcons, who are 4-11 one year after finishing 13-3 and advancing to the NFC Championship.
The Falcons find themselves in a spot similar to the 2012 Panthers, and they've responded in a similar fashion. Carolina started 2-8 last season to fall out of the playoff race but won five of its final six games, including an impressive victory over Atlanta.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, with the Panthers entering Sunday with an 11-4 mark, trying to secure the NFC South crown and a first-round playoff bye at the Falcons' expense.
"It's a new year, and those guys are on top of the world," White said. "They're playing with a lot of confidence, they're playing with a lot of swagger, and we've got to go out there and try to beat these guys."
White has been one of the lucky ones relatively speaking for the banged-up Falcons this season. While he missed three games with a hamstring injury – including the first meeting with the Panthers - and was slowed the first month of the season by an ankle injury, bookend Julio Jones suffered a season-ending foot injury just five games into the season. Running back Steven Jackson missed four games with a hamstring injury and wasn't himself for several games after his return, and the offensive and defensive lines have been hit hard by injuries throughout the season.
Monday night in San Francisco, however, White and Jackson were as effective as they've been all year, and the Falcons pushed a 49ers team trying to secure a playoff spot to the brink before a late interception ended their bid.
"I expected them to play the way they did, and I expect them to play the same way against us," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We've been talking about that and preaching it, and our players believe that they're going to get their best."
White, for one, said the Panthers can count on exactly that.
"We signed up for 16 games, so we're going to play them all and we're going to play them all with every effort and everything that we've got until they're all done," he said. "This is the last game of the season. and we want to go out on a good note."