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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.

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  • 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!

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh 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.

  • 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!

  • hoodwinked82 Oct 24, 12:13 p.m.

    31-13 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.

  • jdpridg 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.

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
UWGB 66
ECU 49
4th
CHA 86
LAC 95
 
4th
CHA 86
LAC 95
 
4th
CLE 97
ORL 66
 
4th
PHI 95
POR 104
 
3rd
TOR 71
PHO 65
 
Half
HOU 51
NYK 46
 
2nd
DAL 29
IND 27
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
CHI
Final
UWGB 66
ECU 49
Final
WEBER 59
NEV 56
Final
FRES 52
EVAN 58
Final
KYST 88
PURD 79
Final
LSU 61
CLEM 64
Final
ALCOR 95
DILL 73
 
Final
CHIST 46
UGST 69
Final
DET 69
MDES 55
 
Final
ARZ 72
MIZZ 53
 
Final
INDST 61
PEAY 57
 
Final
FLGC 58
MAR 43
 
Final
LALAF 52
UWMIL 56
 
Final
ODU 58
GWEBB 46
 
Final
MD 78
ARST 73
 
Final
TOL 92
BUCK 65
 
Final
JMU 77
COL 71
 
2nd
WINT 64
ETST 61
 
Final
GSOUT 78
FIU 72
 
Final
BST 88
GRAM 46
 
2nd
APP 76
HAMP 64
 
Final
MAST 89
JVU 71
 
Final
XAV 89
MURST 62
 
2nd
WAKE 70
NICST 44
 
Final
MSU 79
SCU 52
 
Final
LOU 87
SAV 26
 
Final
TENT 81
SELA 62
 
2nd
VCU 53
VILL 77
 
2nd OT
OU 74
WCU 74
 
2nd
IND 61
EWASH 52
 
Half
ILL 31
BRO 35
 
Half
MSST 29
CLAYST 18
 
Half
BEL 41
LIP 27
 
2nd
TCU 60
MVSU 20
 
2nd
IOWA 35
PEPP 30
 
2nd
MEM 38
PVU 23
 
2nd
KU 51
RIDE 22
 
Half
BAY 33
STEPH 22
 
Half
INCWORD 51
A 34
 
1st
USF 21
HAW 22
 
1st
OKST 18
ORST 18
 
1st
WYO 0
FAM 0
 
9:00pm Tonight
MARQ
YALE
 
1st
CHAM 0
PITT 0
 
9:00pm Tonight
ILLST
SHU
9:00pm Tonight
NMST
STET
 
9:30pm Tonight
ISU
ALA
9:30pm Tonight
SDKST
CHADRON
 
9:30pm Tonight
NCOL
CCHR
 
9:30pm Tonight
OREG
MICH
10:00pm Tonight
SDU
WMICH
10:05pm Tonight
PORST
SIUE
11:00pm Tonight
AUB
TULSA
11:30pm Tonight
SDST
BYU
3rd
NYI 0
PHI 0
 
3rd
BOS 2
PIT 2
 
2nd
FLA 1
MIN 3
 
2nd
DET 3
OTT 1
 
3rd
BUF 24
NYJ 3
 
1st
NOS 7
BAL 7