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Key Players to Watch on the Carolina Panthers Against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16

The Carolina Panthers are now preparing for their second game against the Atlanta Falcons in three weeks. The first time the game wasn't close as the Panthers won 38-0. These are three key players to watch for the Panthers in Week 16 against the Falcons.

Ted Ginn Jr.

Ted Ginn Jr. has become a key part to the Carolina Panthers' aerial attack and currently has a three game streak of two touchdown catches. Two weeks ago against the Atlanta Falcons he had his first 100-yard receiving game with 120 receiving yards on two receptions, both of which for touchdowns.

The nine-year veteran is having a career year with the Panthers and one more touchdown this year would match the number of touchdowns he scored in the previous eight years in the league. This could not have come at a better time for this offense, one that was desperate to have a weapon on the outside when Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending knee injury.

The Falcons were susceptible to the deep threat the first time these two met and the Panthers should try and exploit this again in Week 16.

Kawann Short 

While the Falcons have a former Pro Bowl quarterback and one of the best wide receivers in the league, the key that moves this Falcons' offense is running back Devonta Freeman. In the Falcons seven wins this year, Freeman is averaging 82.4 rushing yards per game and nine touchdowns but in the six losses he played in he averaged only 55 rushing yards and had one touchdown.

If the Panthers want to stop the Freeman, it starts in the middle with Kawann Short. The Panthers' defensive tackle has been having an incredible season that includes nine sacks and his first Pro Bowl selection. Against the Falcons, he had two of those sacks and was given a positive grade of 1.3 against the run according to Pro Football Focus.

While the Panthers' have two fo the better linebackers in the league in Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, if Short is able to stop the run before it even gets to that level this defense should be able to keep the Falcons off the board.

Cameron Artis-Payne

The biggest change for the Panthers from the first meeting between these two teams is the fact that they will be without their leading rusher, Jonathan Stewart. This will be second game that the Panthers will be without Stewart and this means that this presents another great opportunity for Cameron Artis-Payne.

The coaching staff said prior to the Giants game that they would go with the hot hand in the backfield which turned out to be the fifth-round rookie who finished with 93 total yards from scrimmage.

While it was a great first impression for Artis-Payne in extended time, the one thing that he wasn't able to do was get that first NFL touchdown. Well that could happen in Atlanta as the Falcons have given up a league high 18 rushing touchdowns this year. This is another great opportunity for the rookie to have an impact this year.

Twitter @BrandonCroce.

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