Cleat Geeks

The Panther Post: Week 16

PanthersSI wish I knew how I was supposed to act right now. I just know that I believe.

Truth is, no team in NFC history has ever been 14-0 until now so there isn’t even a measuring stick to offer a comparison.  The Carolina Panthers continue to boldly go where no team in their conference has gone before.  As fans, we boldly and hyper-excitedly march along with them, basking in the attention that our small-town franchise provides us.  We turn on ESPN and the scroll at the bottom of the page reads: “NBA”, “NFC”, “AFC”, “NCAAM”, and “PANTHERS”…our own category?! Super-Bowl-XXXVIII

Despite an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII way back in 2004, the Panthers have no history of success, no previous championships to recall, and certainly no reason to have ever given the 1972 Dolphins a reason to be worried.  That mindset is changing weekly.  It’s changing with a quarterback in his fifth year who is set to become the MVP of the league and a group of players who truly and unabashedly love playing together.  It’s changing with a head coach who’s letting his players keep their personality while deftly steering this ship on it’s course to greatness.  It’s changing with an owner who is as hands-off and low-key as they come (the anti-Jerry Jones), but will take players into his home to mentor them.  And it’s changing with a fan base that suddenly believes every single week that their Panthers will come through victorious. They just might not know how to act yet.

Week 16 Panther Points:

  • By now, everyone is sick to death of the OBJ/Josh Norman saga.  The bottom line:  Norman got under Beckham’s skin and quite simply got him to lose it on the field.  Both players behavior took something away from what should have been an epic battle between the two.  That said, Beckham’s intentional helmet-to-helmet spearing of Norman should have resulted in more than a one-game suspension for Beckham. If the hit is an inch or two either way, we could be talking about how Norman is unable to walk today. A gutless, cowardly move.  And gutless and cowardly by Merton Hanks and the NFL for only punishing him one game.
  • I’d like to say that the blown leads by the Panthers defense are nothing to be concerned about, but I’d be lying.  A 23-6 4th quarter lead against Indianapolis; Panthers win 29-26 in OT.  A 37-14 4th quarter lead against Green Bay; Panthers win 37-29 on a last minute goal-line stop.  A 35-7 lead against the Giants with 1:30 left in the 3rd quarter; Panthers win 38-35 on a Graham Gano field goal as time expired.  That’s a disturbing trend that must be corrected before the playoffs.
  • Cam Newton.  My goodness.  340 passing yards, 5 passing TD’s, and 100 yards rushing against the Giants.  That’s something that’s never been done in the history of the NFL. The NFL MVP race is over, folks.  There’s not really a close second.
  • ThomasDavisTen Panthers were named to the Pro Bowl. Ten! And, with apologies to Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Ryan Kalil, Trai Turner, Luke Keuchly, Kawaan Short, Mike Tolbert, Jonathan Stewart, and Josh Norman, I just couldn’t be happier for anybody more than LB Thomas Davis. The reigning Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year has waited 11 years for this honor, and it’s way overdue. Even more than the three ACL tears that Davis has overcome in his career, he has had to overcome the inflated sack statistics of outside LB’s who play in a 3-4 defense year after year. Finally, a traditional 4-3 OLB gets his due. It took way too long, but it’s nice to see it happen for such a great person.
  • ronRiveraThe great big elephant in the room continues to be whether head coach Ron Rivera will go all-out for perfection and a 16-0 regular season, or rest some of his stars for the playoffs.  The question doesn’t even bear asking until next week at the earliest, since the Panthers still have a lot to play for against Atlanta in week 16.  With Arizona at 12-2 with only one NFC loss, the Panthers could not afford to lose both of their remaining games and have the Cardinals win both because each of the Panthers opponents are NFC teams. In short, the Panthers need a win to lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. If they beat Atlanta this week, it will be interesting to see what Rivera decides. Rivera coached the defense of the 2005 Chicago Bears who rested their starters in the last week of the regular season. Ironically, it was the Carolina Panthers who marched into Soldier Field in the divisional round and sent the Bears packing. Rivera has no interest in seeing history repeat itself on his watch.

This Week:

The Panthers make the short trip to Atlanta to face the 7-7 Falcons.  Atlanta’s playoff chances are slim-to-none, but they will be playing hard for any chance at all.  The Panthers drubbed the Falcons 38-0 in Charlotte two weeks ago, and crushed them 34-3 in last season’s winner-take-all matchup in Week 17 at the Georgia Dome.  In short, the Panthers really seem to have the Falcons number.  I expect the Georgia Dome to sound like a Panthers home game on Sunday, with the Panthers prevailing 27-16.

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