Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy said Wednesday the struggling Panthers are a "better team" than Atlanta.
Yes, better than the Falcons, who have clinched the NFC South Division title and have the NFC's best record at 11-1. The Panthers, meanwhile, are coming off a loss to Kansas City, which had won only one game this season before Sunday.
When asked if he meant the Panthers were the better team on Sept. 30 when they lost 30-28 at Atlanta or better overall, Hardy replied, "Both."
Hardy said this Sunday's rematch is about "payback" and "punishment."
"We owe them something and it is coming," Hardy said. "I'm trying to mess with their whole playoff experience. I want them to go home sick in the stomach and mad about life, a couple of depression issues, all types of things. It's going to be a long day from my point of view. I'm coming."
Hardy, now a full-time starter in his third season with the Panthers, said he's not a big fan of the team's Interstate-85 rivals, calling the Falcons "a little cocky."
"I feel like they're not respectful," Hardy said.
Hardy is among several Carolina defensive players who felt disrespected by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan after television cameras caught him cursing as he shouted get off our field toward the Panthers sidelines in the final seconds of Atlanta's Week 4 win at the Georgia Dome.
Ryan's emotions were running high after the Falcons completed an improbable comeback against the Panthers. The Falcons were backed up on their own 1-yard with less than a minute to play and no timeouts in the last meeting.
But Ryan heaved a pass downfield for Roddy White to get the Falcons to midfield and a few plays later Matt Bryant booted a 40-yard field goal to give Atlanta the win.
An emotional Ryan left the field slapping high-fives and shouting as he made his way to the locker room.
"He said some harsh words man, so it's going to be a fight out there," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "He totally disrespected us. They won the game. They came all of the way back to beat us. But to say what he said, I don't think there was cause for it."
Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson, who had 3½ of Carolina's seven sacks against the Falcons in Week 4 said the Panthers saw the video tape of Ryan on the team bus after the game.
He said it's bothered him ever since.
But hey, Drew Brees and Greg Hardy aren't TOO far from the truth. I mean, if you added up both of their team's wins, they'd only be three wins behind us. They wouldn't technically be eliminated yet!