The Carolina Panthers trampled over their NFC South rivals, the Atlanta Falcons, 38-0 on Sunday, which fired them to a 13-0 record – granting them a first-round playoff bye.
The Panthers look set to go a long way in this year’s offseason, regardless of whether or not they end the regular season’s 16 games undefeated.
Their final regular season battles
Next week they face the very tricky Eli Manning and Odell Beckham led New York Giants. The Big Blue will be in the midst of a close playoff battle within their division as them, the Redskins and the Eagles will all be in with a chance of topping the NFC East.
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In week 15, the Falcons have to endure another potentially devastating matchup against Carolina. As Atlanta have three wins at home, and three wins away, it’s clear that their results aren’t particularly reliant on their location. The Panthers could repeat their rout of their divisional rivals.
The Panthers’ final regular season game comes against Tampa Bay, who could also be challenging for a playoff spot if results go favourably in weeks 14 and 15.
Who could stop the Panthers?
With quarterback Cam Newton in top form, and Carolina’s defence coming up strong when needed, it looks like very few things could stop their hot streak.
There’s also the added bonus of knowing that they have a first round bye; so they will be less inclined to rest key players in preparation for the offseason.
Carolina has such a great team ethic, with the offence, defence and special teams, all pulling their weight. Then there’s the immense feel good factor flowing through the Panthers roster, spearheaded by Cam Newton.
Not only is the fifth year QB – out of Auburn – passing a career high amount of touchdowns (28) and boasting a career-high passer rating (96.9), but he also ranks sixth in the league on rushing touchdowns (7).
Newton has been the core of the team, inspiring them forward and consistently forging a strong offence. He’s even managed to recover his team when the defence is having a bad game.
A great show of Newton’s strong play was in week 13, the Panthers travelled down to New Orleans. In the first quarter, Drew Brees sliced through the Carolina defence and ended the first period 14-0 up. Cam Newton then rallied his troops and the Panthers came to within four points of the host team by the two minute warning.
With just a minute-and-five-seconds remaining of the game, Newton launches to Jerricho Cotchery to bring in his fifth passing touchdown of the game. The Saints couldn’t respond and Carolina won 41-38.
It has been Super-Cam’s MVP-worthy play that has hauled the Panthers through their toughest battles. Whilst he’s still bubbling with confidence there’s no reason why they can’t make it to the Super Bowl.
Yahoo Sports reported Cam Newton saying that they oblige themselves to score maximum points early on, rather than settle. The star QB said, "It was important for us to come out fast and get touchdowns instead of field goals."
Can Carolina go all the way?
USA Today has calculated that they have an 8.1% chance to finish the year 19-0 – which would make them just the second team in NFL history to finish undefeated.
Carolina has only made it to the Super Bowl once, in 2004, when they lost 32-29 to the New England Patriots. The Pats look good to return to the Super Bowl, to defend their title, so history could repeat itself.
As long as Cam Newton keeps up the feel-good factor, and the whole team “keep pounding” then there’s no reason why they can’t go all the way.