The Carolina Panthers are one of the hottest teams in football, currently sporting a five-game win streak. Although the team is 6-3 overall, the Saints have stumbled in recent weeks, leaving the door open for the Panthers to make a run at the NFC South title.
Since beginning their five-game run, the Panthers have scored less than 30 points just once, and that was against a stellar NFC contender, the San Francisco 49ers. In that game, the Panthers’ defense rose to the occasion, allowing just nine points, and scoring ten points themselves. It wasn’t the blowout win we’ve come to expect from Carolina, but it was an all-around solid performance nonetheless.
The Panthers’ defense has been playing at an elite level as well. In the past five games, the Rams tested Carolina’s defense more than any of their other opponents, scoring just 15 points.
To say that the Panthers have been dominant since going on their mad run would be an understatement. The Panthers have doubled up their opponents, scoring 140 points to their opponents’ 57 points.
Head coach Ron Rivera has secured his job for the future, at least for an extra season anyway. After entering the year on the hot seat, his team’s performances of late has propelled him back into favor with fans, and likely ownership as well.
Cam Newton has done his part as well. Although he’s not lighting up the scoreboard, he’s also not giving games away in the same ways we’ve grown accustomed to seeing. Over the past two games, he’s turned the ball over some, but his overall body of work has progressed nicely, especially during the team’s winning streak.
With a five-game winning streak going in their favor, the next question that will begin popping up is obvious. Are the Panthers gearing up to shock the NFL world by running through the playoffs into the Super Bowl?
Well, there’s no way to predict who will be hot at the end of the season, but this is a case in which the stats may be highly misleading.
The Panthers’ winning streak may be impressive, but their opponents are a combined 15-31 this season. Even worse, just one of the teams the Panthers have beat all season is likely to find themselves in the playoffs, and that would be the 49ers, who have seemed anything but themselves of late.
So, in short, no, we shouldn’t get too overexcited about the prospect of the Panthers running through the NFC side of the playoffs. Right now, they have themselves in position to snag a wildcard playoff spot, but it’s far too early to make a call for or against the Panthers.
In the coming weeks, we’ll learn much more about the Panthers’ true ability as a football team. The New England Patriots will see the Panthers this weekend, and Carolina still has to play the New Orleans Saints twice. Those three games could very realistically represent three losses on the Panthers’ schedule. In addition, the Buccaneers and Jets are both playing good football at the moment. The Buccaneers in particular should put up a much better fight the next time around when they face the Panthers.
The Panthers have shown great promise for the future over the past five games, but it’s too early to tell if they’re the real deal or just showing a flash of greatness. Right now, the Panthers have all the momentum in the world, and sometimes, especially when competition is as close as it is in the NFL, that’s all a team really needs. The Panthers are heading in the right direction, that’s not in doubt, but let’s not pile on huge expectations just yet.