Jared Fialko

Can Panthers finally join plus-.500 club?

Posted October 24, 2013
Updated November 25, 2013

Like most No. 1 overall NFL draft picks, Cam Newton led a charmed life when it came to wins and losses. He was part of two BCS National Championship teams, with a NJCAA Title sandwiched in between. If you count his redshirt season, his college record at Florida, Blinn and Auburn was a combined 47-6. Forgive him for thinking it would take fewer than 39 games across three campaigns to get on the right side of .500 for the first time in his pro career.

These are the uncharted waters the Newton-led Carolina Panthers are sailing toward on Thursday. With a victory against the winless Buccaneers, they will be 4-3.

The last time the fellas from the Queen City were in such a scenario?
Their secondary got shredded by Larry Fitzgerald.
In the NFC Divisional round.
Of the 2008 season.
Ten days before the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.
The first one, that is.

Let's put this dismal drudge of defeats into even more perspective. Do you know how many players on the current roster have hung around since that Kurt Warner crushing in Charlotte? Try single digits. Nine. Only seven if you discount players not listed as active.

Where was the NFL's reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Luke Kuechly, the last time the Panthers were plus-.500? Fresh off his completing his senior year of football at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he accumulated 130 tackles, a sack and three forced fumbles. By the way, rivals.com thought so highly of him, they bestowed a hefty three-star rating. Another reason why one should always take those snowflakes with a grain of salt. Not too much about this screams "three-star:"

Add 'em all up, and Carolina's streak of .500 or worse stretches 70 games, by far the worst of any team in the league.

Hence, why despite 4-3 not looking like much in the grand scheme of things, it would be massive for this team. Massive for the confidence of their franchise quarterback, who, despite putting up gaudy numbers in his first two years, has been chastised (many would say, unfairly) for his moody behavior throughout this long slump.

Massive for the potential playoff chances for a team, whose fanbase may need it more than any other's. Yes, three weeks ago following the Arizona debacle, "Panthers" and "postseason" together in the same sentences would've garnered a Leslie Nielsen "Airplane!" type reaction.

However, given the state of the current NFC, anything is possible when seemingly every team is flawed. No way the East sends more than one to the playoffs. Chicago has repeatedly proven their ineptitude when Jay Cutler is sidelined. Detroit's defense is shaky, at best, and no-telling how many 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalties Ndamukong Suh will cost the Lions along the way. Last year's No. 1 seed, Atlanta, seems broken beyond repair. The Panthers pounded on St. Louis so badly, they were forced to phone Brett Favre (who looks like he's aged about 15 years in the last 3) about their new quarterback vacancy.

Meanwhile, for as awful as Carolina looked overall against the Cardinals and how vomit-inducing the finish in Buffalo was, on the whole the Panthers have played well. Newton may not be posting Madden '14 numbers, but he's quietly transformed into a more efficient passer. Against St. Louis he missed on only two throws, both of which were catchable balls. His completion percentage of 63.5 is up six points from 2012, and he's on pace for 27 TD tosses, which would be a personal best.

Defensively, Carolina boasts a top-five unit in almost every major category. They allow fewer than 85 rushing yards and 218 passing yards a contest, 4th and 5th best, respectively, and at a combined 302.2 yards per game, that's No. 3 in the league. Most importantly is the scoreboard, which I've been told "don't lie." Their 13.8 points per game allowed ranks only behind Seattle's superb squad.

Safe to say, Thursday night's matchup bodes well for the Panthers' chances to reach the "vaunted" 4-3 mark. If ever there was a team on the brink of madness, it's Tampa Bay. One of only two teams left yet to taste victory? Check. Players ready to revolt and declare mutiny on its head coach, Greg Schiano? Check. Their best offensive weapon, running back Doug Martin, ruled out due to a torn labrum? Check. Heck, biological bedlam with three Bucs testing positive for MRSA (seriously? MRSA?!)? Check. Well, at least it's not raining!

Here's just hoping Thursday's tilt isn't just another in the long line of stinkers the NFL Network has forced upon us this year. Shoot, that Giants/Vikings Monday night game was so pitiful, I'm surprised the NFLN didn't purchase the rights to rerun it!

Currently listening to: Lorde - "Tennis Court"

You've no doubt heard the uber-talented 16-year-old's smash "Royals" by now, but this first cut off her debut album is brilliance, and the official video (which I will not link here for its usage of one George Carlin's 7 deadlies) is simple yet powerful. She's like a mini-Lana Del Rey who hopefully won't blow it on Saturday Night Live like LDR's disaster.

6 Comments

Please to add a comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • 6Pack Oct 24, 12:28 p.m.

    Hoping for a win but have an uneasy feeling about the game. The bucs are hungry. Not good, but hungry. A dangerous thing for the panthers.

  • iron fist Oct 24, 12:18 p.m.

    With upcoming games against Atlanta, at San Fran, and NE this is a must win game if the Panthers... View More

    — Posted by NOT sorry for being caucasian

    Even with a win tonight I don't think they make the playoffs. Cam has improved but not enough for the Panthers to be a playoff team.

  • hoodwinked82 Oct 24, 12:13 p.m.

    31-13 Panthers.

  • NOT sorry for being caucasian Oct 24, 11:35 a.m.

    With upcoming games against Atlanta, at San Fran, and NE this is a must win game if the Panthers want any shot at the playoffs. Still have to play the Saints twice as well. GO PANTHERS!

  • StunGunn Oct 24, 11:10 a.m.

    4-3 might not seem like a big deal, but if the Panthers lose tonight and fall to 3-4, that IS huge, as in a HUGE step back. I really hope the Panthers win this game, but the Bucs beat them twice last year and while the Bucs aren't good, they were good enough to be in the games they lost. The Panthers need to build on their two-game win streak and beat Tampa tonight.

  • McLovin Oct 24, 10:41 a.m.

    they should trade for Josh Gordon...Panthers need a super elite receiver as Sir Steve Smith ages. Im looking forward to a W tonight over Tampa!

  • ACC: NC State at Georgia Tech

    Today at 12:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • SEC: Arkansas at Florida

    Today at 2:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • PGA: Waste Management Phoenix Open

    Today at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • Big 10: Michigan at Michigan State

    Tomorrow at 1:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • ACC: NC State at Georgia Tech

    Today at 12:00 pm on WRAL-FM

  • ACC: Duke at Virginia

    Tonight at 7:00 on 620am

  • NHL: Hurricanes at NY Rangers

    Tonight at 7:00 on 99.9 The Fan

  • Super Bowl: Seattle vs. New England

    Tomorrow at 6:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
12:00pm Today
GT
NCSU
4:00pm Today
LOU
UNC
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
UVA
DUKE
7:00pm Tonight
ETST
NCCU
 
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
CHA
7:00pm Tonight
ORL
DAL
7:00pm Tonight
IND
SAC
 
7:00pm Tonight
WAS
TOR
7:30pm Tonight
DET
HOU
7:30pm Tonight
ATL
PHI
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
CLE
8:00pm Tonight
MEM
OKC
8:30pm Tonight
MIL
POR
9:00pm Tonight
DEN
CHA
9:00pm Tonight
SAN
LAC
10:30pm Tonight
GSW
PHO
12:00pm Today
TENN
AUB
12:00pm Today
CLEM
BC
12:00pm Today
STJOE
DAVID
12:00pm Today
GT
NCSU
12:00pm Today
PITT
ND
12:00pm Today
STJ
PROV
12:00pm Today
UNH
USB
 
12:00pm Today
WVU
TTU
12:00pm Today
TEMPL
TULA
12:00pm Today
EMICH
WMICH
 
12:00pm Today
IOWA
WISC
12:00pm Today
SHU
XAV
1:00pm Today
UF
ARK
1:00pm Today
STET
LIP
 
1:00pm Today
ILL
PSU
1:00pm Today
TULSA
SFLA
1:05pm Today
INDST
BRAD
 
2:00pm Today
MAINE
GTDNS
 
2:00pm Today
UGST
ARKST
 
2:00pm Today
LEH
BU
 
2:00pm Today
MARQ
BUT
2:00pm Today
DEL
COC
 
2:00pm Today
CREI
GEOR
2:00pm Today
CLST
UWGB
 
2:00pm Today
NEOM
MAST
 
2:00pm Today
LOYC
ILLST
 
2:00pm Today
KU
KYST
2:00pm Today
JVU
KNST
 
2:00pm Today
MSST
LSU
2:00pm Today
SHU
MNTER
 
2:00pm Today
VCU
RICH
2:00pm Today
ISU
TCU
2:00pm Today
BING
MLOWELL
 
2:00pm Today
HART
VERM
 
2:00pm Today
DEP
VILL
2:00pm Today
WAKE
VT
3:00pm Today
FAM
COOK
 
3:00pm Today
NDAK
IDST
 
3:00pm Today
ARMY
GHND
 
3:00pm Today
BEL
TENT
 
3:00pm Today
TXSA
UAB
3:00pm Today
ILLCH
VALPO
 
3:05pm Today
DRAK
EVAN
 
3:15pm Today
IND
RUTG
3:30pm Today
UMO
BST
 
4:00pm Today
RMU
BRY
 
4:00pm Today
WAGN
CCST
 
4:00pm Today
GWEBB
CCAR
 
4:00pm Today
MDES
COPST
 
4:00pm Today
RFLSH
FD
 
4:00pm Today
RIU
GWU
4:00pm Today
SCAR
UGA
4:00pm Today
Terriers
LIU
 
4:00pm Today
PAC
LMU
 
4:00pm Today
STLU
UMASS
4:00pm Today
HOW
MRGST
 
4:00pm Today
DREX
UNCW
 
4:00pm Today
LOU
UNC
4:00pm Today
MIZZ
MISS
4:00pm Today
ALCOR
SOUTH
 
4:00pm Today
NIOWA
WICHS
4:00pm Today
JMU
WMARY
 
4:00pm Today
RAD
WINT
 
4:15pm Today
EILL
SIUE
 
4:30pm Today
UNCA
CAMP
 
4:30pm Today
MORE
EKENT
 
4:30pm Today
NICST
INCWORD
 
4:30pm Today
CMICH
OHIO
 
4:30pm Today
TEXAM
VANDY
5:00pm Tonight
UWMIL
DET
 
5:00pm Tonight
LAMON
SALA
 
5:00pm Tonight
UNCG
WCU
 
5:05pm Tonight
EWASH
IDAHO
 
5:30pm Tonight
SDKST
DEN
 
5:30pm Tonight
SHSU
HOUB
 
5:30pm Tonight
MVSU
JST
 
5:30pm Tonight
TXST
LALAF
 
5:30pm Tonight
LATU
MARS
5:30pm Tonight
SD
ORU
 
6:00pm Tonight
PVU
ALAAM
 
6:00pm Tonight
GRAM
ARKPB
 
6:00pm Tonight
PRIN
DART
 
6:00pm Tonight
SCST
DELST
 
6:00pm Tonight
COLST
FRES
6:00pm Tonight
NORST
HAMP
 
6:00pm Tonight
MINN
NEB
6:00pm Tonight
WYO
NEV
6:00pm Tonight
SAV
NCAT
 
6:00pm Tonight
GAELS
PEPP
 
6:00pm Tonight
NW
PURD
6:00pm Tonight
BAY
TEX
6:00pm Tonight
CHAT
CITA
 
6:00pm Tonight
SMISS
WKENT
6:00pm Tonight
CORN
YALE
 
7:00pm Tonight
LAM
ABCHRIST
 
7:00pm Tonight
BGU
AKR
 
7:00pm Tonight
KENT
ALA
7:00pm Tonight
CLMB
BRO
 
7:00pm Tonight
LIB
CSOU
 
7:00pm Tonight
BUCK
COL
 
7:00pm Tonight
UVA
DUKE
7:00pm Tonight
NE
ELON
 
7:00pm Tonight
CHAR
FIU
7:00pm Tonight
ODU
FATL
7:00pm Tonight
SAMF
FUR
 
7:00pm Tonight
DUQ
GMAS
7:00pm Tonight
PENN
HARV
 
7:00pm Tonight
LBSU
HAW
 
7:00pm Tonight
BONA
LAS
7:00pm Tonight
NAVY
LAF
 
7:00pm Tonight
PBY
LONG
 
7:00pm Tonight
WOFF
MERC
 
7:00pm Tonight
ETST
NCCU
 
7:00pm Tonight
MCNST
NO
 
7:00pm Tonight
FLGC
NKENTUCKY
 
7:00pm Tonight
IONA
PETE
 
7:00pm Tonight
STEPH
TAMCC
 
7:00pm Tonight
UNF
USCU
 
7:30pm Tonight
GSOUT
ARKLR
 
8:00pm Tonight
UCR
CSNO
 
8:00pm Tonight
SELA
NWST
 
8:00pm Tonight
OKST
OKLA
8:00pm Tonight
UNT
RICE
8:00pm Tonight
SDU
USF
 
8:00pm Tonight
NMU
SJST
8:00pm Tonight
PEAY
SEMIZ
 
8:00pm Tonight
NILL
TOL
 
8:00pm Tonight
HOF
TOWS
 
8:00pm Tonight
SMU
UCF
8:00pm Tonight
MURST
TENNM
 
8:00pm Tonight
SDST
UTST
8:05pm Tonight
MIZST
SILL
 
8:15pm Tonight
TXARL
TROY
 
8:30pm Tonight
TXSOU
ALAST
 
8:30pm Tonight
TENST
JVST
 
8:30pm Tonight
WASU
STAN
9:00pm Tonight
GRCN
CHIST
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTEP
MTST
9:00pm Tonight
SUTAH
NARZ
 
9:00pm Tonight
BYU
SCU
 
9:00pm Tonight
NMST
TXPA
 
9:00pm Tonight
NCOL
WEBER
 
10:00pm Tonight
UNLV
AFA
10:00pm Tonight
UCD
CPSL
 
10:00pm Tonight
GONZ
MEM
10:00pm Tonight
CALST
SEAT
 
10:00pm Tonight
UCI
UCSB
 
10:05pm Tonight
SACST
MONT
 
10:05pm Tonight
PORST
MNTST
 
10:30pm Tonight
UCLA
COL
10:30pm Tonight
WLVRN
UMKC
 
1:00pm Today
MON
WAS
2:00pm Today
DET
NYI
3:00pm Today
OTT
ARI
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
CAR
7:00pm Tonight
WIN
DAL
7:00pm Tonight
NJD
FLA
7:00pm Tonight
BOS
LOS
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
TOR
7:30pm Tonight
TAM
CLB
10:00pm Tonight
CAL
EDM
10:30pm Tonight
SJS
CHI