Rapid Reaction: Broncos 24, Falcons 20

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

When the Carolina Panthers joined the NFL in 1995, the league thought it was giving the Atlanta Falcons the rival they never had.

Proximity aside, the rivalry never truly took hold. That's largely because the Falcons and Panthers were rarely good at the same time.

That may be about to change. Although Atlanta lost to Denver for its first home defeat of the season, next Sunday's game in the Georgia Dome is going to be huge.

The Panthers are coming to town, holding on to sole possession of first place in the NFC South. At 6-4, the Falcons remain in a playoff race that no one ever expected them to be in.

Upstate South Carolina, which lies between Atlanta and Charlotte, isn't exactly New England dividing its loyalties between the Yankees and the Red Sox. But, at least for a day, the Clemson faithful actually might have a reason to care about the Falcons and Panthers.