ON THE HOT SEAT: Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis

Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, the former Georgia standout who has to defend Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, will be on the hot seat for this one.

“He’s one of the toughest guys in the league to cover, even at this point his career,” Davis said. “I think the refs give him a whole lot of respect. If you watch him on film, he’s finding ways to get open, whether it’s illegally or whether it’s running good routes. He’s finding ways to get open.”

Davis had a big interception right before halftime last week against the Saints. The Panthers scored a touchdown after his pick to take a 7-6 lead.

He figures that he could be busy on Gonzalez’s last day at the office.

“Whenever you have a guy like that who’s targeted by the quarterback, it makes your day that much more difficult,” Davis said. “For me, as a linebacker, who usually has to cover him, I know that it’s going to be a long day.”

He’s expecting an emotionally charged Falcons team.

“If he was on my team, I know that I’d be doing everything that I could to make sure that he goes out on top,” Davis said.

In the teams’ previous meeting, a 34-10 win for the Panthers in Charlotte on Nov. 3, Gonzalez had six catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s one of those guys who has been a staple in this league for a long time,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He is most certainly one of my most favorite players to watch. I have a tremendous amount of respect for who Tony Gonzalez is, and it will most certainly be a thrill to see him again.”