Sunday, 18 October 2015

The Carolina Panthers are the best team in the NFC

All the Carolina Panthers doubters, of which there are many, were feeling pretty good about themselves late in Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. Not that losing in Seattle is anything to hang your head over, but Carolina was looking like paper Panthers in getting down 20-7 to the somewhat-struggling Seahawks midway through the third quarter and then trailing 23-14 with four minutes left.
Then Cam Newton and Greg Olsen got hot, connecting on a 32-yarder that led to a one-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 23-20 and then hooking up on a 26-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left, which put an exclamation point on a game-winning 80-yard drive against the once-fearsome Seattle Seahawks defense.Suddenly, the Panthers, who had defeated Jacksonville, Houston, New Orleans and Tampa (combined record: 7-16) are a respectable 5-0, have a half-game lead in the NFC South and are in fantastic position (for October, at least) in the playoff hunt as there’s only one other non-first place team in the NFC with a winning record. The team showed they can win when Cam Newton has below-average numbers (20/36, 269 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT). The defense continued to prove it can stop the run (Marshawn Lynch averaged 3.2 yards per carry). And Ron Rivera’s defense showed it can adjust its game plan accordingly (let Jimmy Graham gets his yards, shut down everybody else).
So if we’re talking hypothetical top NFC teams, why not the Packers, who have an even better record (6-0, one game better than Carolina, which already had its bye) and some guy named Rodgers? Well, in a January game at Lambeau, you’d be stupid not to take the Pack. But right now, going to Seattle and getting a win >>> only avoiding overtime against the San Diego Chargers because Philip Rivers missed a wipe open Danny Woodhead. Also, I’d take Carolina over Green Bay in a playoff game in Charlotte because, again, they’re the best team in the NFC.
But that on October 18 and $6.50 will get you a cup of coffee at a football game. (I just assume that’s the price.) Anyway, being one of the NFC’s best hasn’t worked out well in the past for Carolina anyway: The last two times the team has earned a first-round bye, it lost its very first playoff game at home. So be careful what you wish for, Carolina fans. Sometimes it truly is too good to be true.

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