ATLANTA - Coach Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers are headed back to the playoffs.Owner Arthur Blank and the Atlanta Falcons could be preparing to hire a new head coach.In a winner-take-all regular season finale, the Panthers easily beat the Falcons 34-3 to win the weak NFC South on Sunday.The victory gave Carolina (7-8-1) a division title for a second straight year, a first-time achievement for the franchise, as the Panthers prepare to host Arizona in a wild-card playoff game on Saturday.Atlanta (6-10) has collapsed since nearly winning the NFC title game two years ago. The Falcons, losers in 22 of their last 32 games, could have different leadership in the next few days if Blank fires Smith in the next day or so.Though Smith won two division titles and made four playoff appearances in his first five years, those achievements werent enough to prevent Atlantas collapse over the last two seasons.If he is fired, Smith will leave as the winningest coach in the Falcons 49-year history.Smith said he never saw Sundays horrible performance coming after what he thought was a good week of practice and game-planning.It sends a signal to me that I didnt get the job done, Smith said. Im the one thats held responsible for it.A few things to consider for both teams:WHATS NEXT: While Blank decides what to do with Smith, Rivera will have his team back at work preparing for Arizona.Despite being 3-8-1 following a lopsided loss at Minnesota on Nov. 30, Carolina rallied while division rivals Atlanta and New Orleans fell apart.Our guys are the kind of guys that we want, Rivera said, and I just felt if we kept playing and kept taking care of our business that we would get that opportunity.EVEN KEEL: To avoid a letdown against the Cardinals, linebacker Thomas Davis wants everyone in the Carolina locker room to remember how empty it felt to lose at home in the playoffs last year to San Francisco.We hosted a playoff game last year and didnt fare well, Davis said. We understand that as a team. Were going to remain focused, and we have to make sure we do a good job of making sure that we take care of business at home.MIX EM UP: Falcons receiver Roddy White said the offence was surprised by the zone coverage Carolina deployed and was disappointed that Atlanta never seemed to adjust.They mixed up a bunch of different coverages and didnt play a whole lot of man coverages, White said. They dropped eight, they dropped seven and they rallied to the ball. They did a good job of that and kind of confused us early in the game that we werent prepared for.YOUNG AND TOUGH: The Panthers, who started a franchise-record seven rookies on both sides of the line in last Sundays home win over Cleveland, got a boost defensively from rookie starters Bene Benwikere and Tre Boston and reserves Adarius Glanton and Kony Ealy.The foursome combined for 10 solo tackles, one sack, one interception, one forced fumble and one pass breakup.Said Boston, who picked off Matt Ryans pass to Harry Douglas and returned it 84 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the third quarter, I think it was our best overall defensive game that we played this season. From seven, back seven, we just all did our jobs. Were coached to play to our potential.LONG, HARD FALL: Ryan wanted to win the game and the division, not just for Smith, but for everybody on the team.I think it was about everyone in our organization, Ryan said. I think when we came into this game, it wasnt just about Mike. It was about us as a team. We wanted to continue to play and we felt like we had the right team to do that.BY THE NUMBERS: Rivera improved his career December record to 15-3 since 2011. ... The Falcons dropped to 5-1 against the NFC South. They went 1-9 outside the division. ... Panthers QB Cam Newton has averaged 7.7 yards per carry in 60 career rushing attempts against Atlanta. Newton was Carolinas leading rusher with 51 yards. The team finished with 194 to just 63 for Atlanta.___AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL Kevin Huerter Hawks Jersey . Jamies number grades given are out of five, with five being the best mark. Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings (3) - Early goal against was on the power play. Damian Jones Hawks Jersey . This week they discuss the Philadelphia 76ers, Gregg Popovich, Royal and Ancient Golf Club and Bill Belichick. https://www.thehawkslockerroom.com/Chandler-Parsons-City-Edition-Jersey/ .Y. - Alex Rodriguez paid $305,000 for evidence that could be used in the case involving the Biogenesis of America drug clinic, the Daily News reported Saturday. Dikembe Mutombo Hawks Jersey . Earnshaw, 31, most recently spent time on loan in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv from Welsh club Cardiff City, which plays in Englands second-tier League Championship. Earnshaw began his career with Cardiff Citys youth program and turned professional in 1998. Jabari Parker Hawks Jersey . It took five games, but the Celtics finally helped Stevens earn his first NBA victory. "Im going to celebrate for a whole 12 minutes, and then Im going to start watching Orlando and trying to figure them out," the first-year Celtics coach said after Boston beat the Utah Jazz, one of the leagues other winless teams, 97-87 on Wednesday night.OSTERSUND, Sweden - Martin Fourcade overcame four penalties and windy conditions to win the mens 12.5-kilometre pursuit on Sunday for his second victory in two days at the biathlon World Cup.The Frenchman finished in 33 minutes, 54.9 seconds. Russias Anton Shipulin, with one penalty, was 10 seconds behind. Norways Emil Hegle Svendsen was third with two penalties, trailing Fourcade by 26.3 seconds.Calgarys Nathan Smith was 16th in 35:25.8.Fourcade, a double Olympic champion in Sochi, finished 81st in the mens 20K individual race earlier this week. He regained his form on Saturday by winning the 10K sprint with clean shooting and leading from start to finish.The most important thing I am taking away from here is confidence, Fourcade said after Sundays race.Smith was on pace with the leaders until his final stop at the range, where he missed three shots,.Gliding onto the mat for that standing I had in my mind that a clean would probably guarantee a medal, Smith said. Unfortunately I missed my first three shots. I was feeling quite a bit of fattigue going in and I swear it was a little windier than normal for those 25 seconds.ddddddddddddIn the womens event, Finlands Kaisa Makarainen clinched the 10K pursuit in 35:01.7 with three penalties.Ukraines Valj Semerenko was 47.9 seconds behind, beating Dorothea Wierer of Italy in a fight for second by just 0.4. Both women had four penalties.Rosanna Crawford of Canmore, Alta., was 14th in 36:50.0.My legs were tired from four races this week. It always takes a bit to get used to racing this much, said Crawford, who sits 12th overall in the World Cup standings. Overall Im happy with how the week went. I know there is so much potential this year so Im really looking forward to the rest of the season.Crawford missed one shot in each of her four rounds of shooting, which dropped her four spots in the standings.Missing one target isnt that bad, but when you miss one every time it can be pretty frustrating, she said. In 20-shot races you need to shoot 85 per cent if you are starting behind.— With files from The Canadian Press. ' ' '