By Ted Fleming
Under normal circumstances Panthers’ fans would have their noses pressed against the television screen on a Sunday when their team is not playing. That has already happened once this season, a Thursday night affair with the Giants that turned out to be a one-sided affair for the team from New Jersey.
It was just Week 3 and the loss left Carolina 1-2, not a record that was impossible to overcome because there was still a lot of football left to play, especially that weekend when their division rivals had their own games to play and the obvious rooting interest was for anyone who was playing the Buccaneers, Saints and Falcons.
But that was then and this is now. Three weeks after the Bank of America (Stadium) Massacre – not to be confused with this weekend’s NASCAR Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway where someone will actually get a win in the state – the Panthers sit at home because it is their turn for a bye, just like Saints, and it is hard to figure what fans are hoping for.
Carolina and New Orleans are knotted at 1-4 so it is presumed that the Chiefs have a lot of Carolinians cheering for Kansas City to knock off Tampa Bay. That would mean that the Buccaneers would also be 1-4 at the end of the day only the Chiefs have some issues and they are on the road for this one.
So let’s pretend that the Chiefs are victorious and you now have three teams in the NFC South tied for second place. The unbeaten Falcons are home against the 1-3 Raiders and favored by ten and it is not out of the question that Atlanta will win by at least double that number. That leaves a division, at the end of the day, with only one franchise eligible for the postseason and everyone else 4.5 games behind.
If anyone believes the Saints are just going to roll over and die because they are three-games under .500, forget it. Of the three clubs that are languishing with the same record, only New Orleans has the capability to reverse course. They also have a track record of being able to string together wins with shocking regularity.
The Buccaneers are a team in transition so they will play each game as if it was the Super Bowl. They will probably lose a lot of them anyway, then again new head coach Greg Schiano doesn’t care about draft position just the number of wins he can take into the off-season.
That is not to say the Panthers don’t want to do the same thing but fans may want to look at things differently, like the reality of their team’s situation and where they will pick next April 25 in New York.
One local headline read something along the lines of “At least they can’t lose on Sunday.” Even the media is starting to look toward the 2013 Draft. Are fans ready to follow suit?
Frankly, it doesn’t matter what happens this Sunday because even with the best case scenario of the Buccaneers and Falcons losing, the Panthers will be, at best, four games out with only moral victories seemingly on the horizon.
There is always the hope that the Saints will continue to lose games they should win and some Divine intervention changes the course of the Falcons season but you might have a better chance of hitting the lottery.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.