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Panthers Still Have A Chance To Clinch Top Seed In Their Conference

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have secured a spot in this year's NFL playoffs.  But, they now know they have a chance at being the top seed in their conference.  
League officials have determined that a Panthers' victory over Atlanta this Sunday along with a San Francisco victory and a Seattle loss would give Carolina home field as long as they remain alive in the postseason.  Head Coach Ron Rivera said his message to the team will be to not worry about anyone other than the Falcons.  

"If we take care of our business and things fall into place...great," says Rivera.  "Nothing but good things can happen if we take care of our business and do the things we're supposed to.  And that's what I'll say.  As we go forward, yes, I would hope that things can go our way continually. And who knows?"

Carolina will face Atlanta in their regular-season finale most likely without the services of top receiver Steve Smith.  He strained a knee ligament in the Panthers' win over New Orleans.

Rivera says Smith will be listed as "doubtful" against the Falcons -- but he won't say Smith is definitely out of action.

"We're going to have to re-evaluate Steve as we go along.  The one thing about him is his toughness..his mental toughness... his tenacity.  Everyone keeps saying he'll be out.  I don't know.  A guy like him... Shoot... Who knows?  He's one of those guys that can will himself to do something.  So, his timetable... Believe me, I'm not going to set one on him, that's for sure," Rivera says.

Win or lose, Carolina will make its first playoff appearance since 2008.

Gurnal Scott joined North Carolina Public Radio in March 2012 after several stops in radio and television. After graduating from the College of Charleston in his South Carolina hometown, he began his career in radio there. He started as a sports reporter at News/Talk Radio WTMA and won five Sportscaster of the Year awards. In 1997, Gurnal moved on to television as general assignment reporter and weekend anchor for WCSC-TV in Charleston. He anchored the market's top-rated weekend newscasts until leaving Charleston for Memphis, TN in 2002. Gurnal worked at WPTY-TV for two years before returning to his roots in radio. He joined the staff of Memphis' NewsRadio 600 WREC in 2004 eventually rising to News Director. In 2006, Raleigh news radio station WPTF came calling and he became the station's chief correspondent. Gurnal’s reporting has been honored by the South Carolina Broadcasters Association, the North Carolina Associated Press, and the Radio Television Digital News Association of the Carolinas.
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