Atlanta at Carolina, 1 p.m.


The Falcons' record when they score first Today's showdown could be mistaken as Michael Vick vs. the Panthers. Vick has flustered Carolina, particularly by scrambling: His 355 yards rushing against the Panthers are the most he has had against any team, and he averages nearly nine yards per carry against them.

But Vick has shown a recent willingness to stay in the pocket. After averaging 92.3 passing yards per game in October, he averaged 222.3 passing yards per game in November, completing 62 percent with seven touchdowns and one interception.

Should Vick run, the Panthers might be hampered by the potential loss of LB Dan Morgan, who is questionable with a sprained ankle. Morgan, the Panthers' leading tackler and one of their fastest defenders, likely would be assigned to shadow Vick.

Of course, Vick is hardly the only runner to depend upon if the Falcons are to avoid falling two games behind the Panthers in the NFC South. Underrated RB Warrick Dunn is 40 yards short of his career high in rushing yards (1,133 yards in 2000) and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. Atlanta is the only team to have rushed for more than 100 yards in every game; Carolina boasts the league's No. 3 run defense at 82.4 yards per game. The Panthers have held their last six opponents to less than 300 yards, and their 28 forced turnovers are tied for second in the league.