Cleat Geeks

The Panther Post: 10 Questions

With their 44-16 drubbing of the NFL team from Washington, the Carolina Panthers became the 16th team in the Super Bowl era to start a season 10-0 (the Patriots became the 17th last night).  The last team to start a season 10-0 was the 2011 Green Bay Packers, who would finish 15-1 but lose at home in the Divisional round of the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.  In other words, 10-0 doesn’t guaranty anything.  So, as this magical season for Carolina rolls along, here are ten questions–one for each victory–to contemplate:PantherBanner

  1. Is Cam Newton the MVP of the NFL?  In a word, yes.  Tom Brady is the Most ‘Outstanding’ Player, but the Patriots seem to find a way to win no matter who is at quarterback (see Bill Belichick further along in this column).  Take Cam Newton away from the Carolina Panthers and there is absolutely no chance they are 10-0.  Derek Anderson is a very serviceable backup, but, with apologies to him, this season just isn’t happening without Cam Newton at the helm.
  2. ronRiveraIs Ron Rivera the NFL Coach of the Year?  At this point, Rivera is likely to win the award.  Absolutely nobody predicted the Panthers would be this good.  Rivera has the perfect demeanor to handle the success so far, and the smarts to push the right buttons to keep it going.  The “Riverboat Ron” thing has been overplayed, because in truth, Rivera can be conservative to a fault more often than not.  He just seems to have a knack for picking the right spots to gamble. The fact that Rivera once played for a team (the 1985 Bears) that started 10-0 and won a Super Bowl should not be discounted.  Rivera wins the award this year, but just like every year, you could give it to Bill Belichick and it would be hard to argue.
  3. Can the Panthers go 16-0?  This team has now won 14 consecutive regular season games.  So “can” they?  Absolutely.
  4. Can the Panthers go 10-6?  This is the paranoid Panther fan question.  Realistically, the Panthers will lose one or two games before the end of the regular season. It’s not realistic to think they would lose all six.
  5. How special is this Carolina defense?  They are currently 4th in yards allowed, and tied for 5th in points allowed.  And there’s this:  In the last two games–victories over Tennessee and Washington–the Panthers have not allowed an offensive snap in the Red Zone.  Let that one sink in.
  6. How special is this Carolina offense?  They rank just 15th in total yards, but are 3rd in scoring offense at 29.9 points per game.  See Cam Newton, MVP.
  7. Will Sean McDermott and Mike Shula be around in a year?  The Panthers coordinators will be hot commodities in the off season as head coaching jobs become available.  I would not be surprised to see both get opportunities.  The much-maligned Shula has put together a 30-point-per-game offense with arguably the weakest wide receiver group in the NFL.  McDermott’s defense is loaded with talent, but he maximizes that talent to it’s fullest.
  8. Which Panther will win NFL Defensive Player of the Year?  Either DT Kawann Short or DB Josh Norman should be considered odds-on favorites at this point.  Short is the most disruptive interior lineman the Panthers have employed since the days of Kris Jenkins.  Norman has been stuck on four interceptions for several weeks now, but that is in large part due to the fact that opposing quarterbacks have stopped throwing to his side of the field.  “Norman Island” is a real place.
  9. NewtonDancingWhat’s the big deal with Cam Newton dancing?  This has taken on a ridiculous mind of it’s own.  Chris Berman did “the Dab” on Monday Night Countdown last night for goodness sake!  Can we call it “fun” and “much ado about nothing”?  And in Cam’s own words: “If you don’t want me to dance, then keep me out”.
  10. Should I book a hotel room in Santa Clara?  Absolutely.  The NFC looks like it will run through Charlotte. (Just make sure there’s a cancellation option…just in case).

This week: It doesn’t get much bigger in the regular season than Thanksgiving in Dallas.  The Cowboys might be 3-7, but Tony Romo is back and their confidence level is high.  I’m sure every loud-mouthed, obnoxious Cowboys fan who has never even set foot inside the state of Texas will come out of the woodwork if the Cowboys pull the upset.  But wait…that’s the crazy part!  The odds makers have tabbed Dallas as a 1 to 2 point favorite!  Ron Rivera and the rest of the Panthers have already begun to use this obvious slight as motivation.  Rivera himself called it “disrespectful” in his weekly press conference. Rivera’s 1985 Bears were 10-0 and set to play at the 7-3 Dallas Cowboys.  Dallas was named a 2-point favorite.  Final score?  Bears 44, Cowboys 0.  Look for history to repeat itself this week.  Almost.  Panthers 29, Cowboys 24.

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