What are the chances that the Carolina Panthers actually make the playoffs? Two weeks ago after the loss to Tennessee, I had completely written the Panthers off. There was no chance they could even sniff the playoffs. During the broadcast of the Tampa/Carolina game on Sunday, one of the commentators mentioned that with this win and Atlanta losing to Oakland, how big of a game the Falcons and Panthers matchup was going to be. I couldn’t believe it – was he saying there was an actual chance that the Panthers could still make the playoffs? So I decided to do a little looking and see if this was even possible.
Now before I go any further, let me specify that I do not believe this is likely. The chances of this actually happening are slim to none. So by all means, do not take this as some type of prediction or foresight as to what I believe will be the outcome at the end of the season. Even though I am sure that I will still be berated by anyone who doesn’t read this far down on social media, I want to clarify this is merely what could happen, not necessarily what will happen.
So, the first step would be that the Panthers would need to win out. Despite all of the injuries on defense, the Panthers must manage to win six in a row to finish out the season 8-8. This would mean that we beat Atlanta and Tampa in Charlotte, and Houston and New Orleans on the road. I could very easily see us playing Atlanta tough and coming up with a victory on Sunday. Tampa we know we can beat. Houston could be a tricky one, but with all their injuries maybe we could somehow slip one past them – who knows, Jake could be starting by then. There is a chance that in week seventeen New Orleans could be resting their starters, giving the Panthers the right opportunity to win the last game of the season. Now, again, I don’t see this happening, but it could. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Panthers went 3-1 in the final four games or if they went 0-4, but for all intents and purposes let’s assume they win out.
Now, even winning out the Panthers would need some more help to get in. One doesn’t simply go 2-6 in the first half of the season and expect to just walk right into the dance without a little help, now, do they? We are assuming that Green Bay, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Dallas will all win their respective divisions and get in, leaving four teams still ahead of Carolina to grab the final two wild card spots. Atlanta, New York, Chicago, and Detroit are all in front of Carolina and would need to lose some games.
So let’s start with our division rival, the Atlanta Falcons. The Dirty Birds sit at 7-5 right now and still have games against Carolina, Jacksonville, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. We are already figuring that Carolina beats them. Jacksonville could beat them depending on which Jacksonville team shows up. If it is the Jaguar team that beat Baltimore earlier in the year, sure, but if it is the Jaguar team that got trounced last Monday, not likely. I don’t think the Falcons can stop Drew Brees the way he has been playing lately, and they have already lost to Tampa once this year. That would make the Falcons 7-9 and behind the Panthers.
Now how about Chicago? It was devastating enough when the Bears lost Jay Cutler, especially when I thought the Bears were really starting to peak, but then they lost Matt Forte last week as well. Chicago is currently 7-9 and has as good a chance as any of the teams of losing out. Their remaining schedule is Denver, Seattle, Green Bay, and Minnesota, with Seattle being the only home game out of the four. It is very likely that they lose to Tebow, “Beast Mode” Marshawn, and Rodgers, and don’t think the division rival Vikings wouldn’t love to keep them out of the playoffs. Four losses and da Bears are also at 7-9.
The New York Giants are currently 6-6, only two games ahead of the Panthers. So, theoretically, they wouldn’t have to lose all four to end up 7-9. The G-Men still have Dallas twice, the Redskins, and the Jets. New York will undoubtedly lose at least one of those games to the Cowboys, if not both. The Jets in their own right are fighting for the playoffs in the AFC and can’t really afford to lose any more. Let’s face it – the Redskins are sorry – but like I said they only have to lose three of the four.
Detroit is the trickiest of the four teams that need to lose. The Lions started off very strong and seem to have leveled off as of late, but I still consider them to be a good team. They still have Minnesota, Oakland, San Diego, and Green Bay left. I personally think Green Bay is running the table, so you can count that on as a loss. They play the Raiders in Oakland, who are also still fighting for their playoff lives, so I could see them losing there. Who knows – maybe the lack of discipline and suspensions have caught up to Detroit and they are unraveling right before our eyes. I would be really hard pressed to pick this one, but if the Lions lose out they also would be 7-9 behind the Panthers.
In all honesty, if three of those remaining four had an end-of-the-year meltdown, the Panthers could do it because two get in. I said before it is highly unlikely to happen, but I am feeling optimistic this evening, and I can still dream, can’t I?