Sports are at their best when the unscripted drama of a game defies reason.
When an unlikely set of circumstances disregards the odds and sweeps elation over a fan base like no reasonable fictional story could. Or in the case of the Atlanta Falcons — when the agony of an unfathomable meltdown sends hearts sinking.
It’s a pain that Falcons fans have lived with in the shadow of 28-3 that has repeatedly tormented them in cruel fashion this season. Fresh off their latest disaster that saw a late Todd Gurley touchdown actually cost them a likely win against the Detroit Lions, the Falcons will look to avoid another on Thursday in an NFC South clash with the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Will Falcons implode again?
Avoiding a meltdown will be about all the Falcons have to play for as their season has spiraled into a 1-6 debacle highlighted by three losses that could easily qualify as the worst of most teams’ seasons. Sunday’s loss to the Lions was a proverbial walk in the park compared to Week 2’s disaster against the Dallas Cowboys or Week 3’s fiasco against the Chicago Bears.
And there are nine more games to go.
For the Panthers, they’ll have an opportunity to pull even to 4-4 and continue to fight for an unexpected wild-card berth in a season that debuts the seven-team playoff field in each conference.
Christian McCaffrey ruled out
The return of Christian McCaffrey will have to wait. The Panthers have played without their All-Pro running back since he suffered a high-ankle sprain in a Week 2 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and declined to activate him prior to the deadline for Thursday’s game.
Thanks in part to steady play from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and more than adequate fill-in work from backup running back Mike Davis, the Panthers have gone 3-2 in McCaffrey’s absence to remain relevant in the NFC.
The Panthers designated McCaffrey from injured reserve Tuesday, meaning he was eligible to play if head coach Matt Rhule was confident enough in his return from injury to activate him for Thursday’s game.
McCaffrey practiced on Tuesday, and Rhule told reporters that he was “hopeful” he could play. He also made clear that he wasn’t going to take any chances of playing him too soon.
In the NFC South, wins always mean something, even among seasons that appear to be lost. The Falcons have plenty of talent and are capable of lighting up the scoreboard with an offense featuring Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley Jr. and Gurley.
The Falcons may not be winners. But they almost always put on a show.
More from Yahoo Sports: