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Carolina Panthers Still On Track For Playoffs, But Not In Yet

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By Danny Cox

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 8: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers is sacked during a game against the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 8, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints defeated the Panthers 31-13. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

(Credit, Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

A 31-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints did not bump the Carolina Panthers down the ladder too much in the NFC and it didn’t knock them out of playoff contention. It was a bit bothersome and certainly disheartening, but there is still so much to look forward to and the Panthers have got some work to do.

Any way that things are looked at for the Panthers, the majority of the possible options look favorable for them.

As of the end of Week 14, the Carolina Panthers have possession of the fifth seed in the NFC with a 9-4 record. The San Francisco 49ers also have a 9-4 record, but Carolina wins the tiebreaker based on head-to-head winning percentage.

One thing that the Panthers need to be aware of is that they cannot get complacent and think that one of the wild card spots definitely belong to them.

Seattle, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Detroit are the current division leaders. Carolina and San Francisco currently own the NFC wild card spots, but there are four other teams still alive in the conference – Arizona, Chicago, Dallas, and Green Bay.

Carolina has the New York Jets and Saints at home and has to travel to Atlanta to take on the lowly Falcons in the season finale. All are winnable games, but all are certainly not easy, either. The Jets are up and down all season and everyone saw what the Saints just did to the Panthers in New Orleans. Atlanta is not good this year, but they are not to be underestimated.

The Panthers own a number of tiebreakers over other NFC teams and having the same record as some others will result in the fifth or sixth seed belonging to Carolina.

As for the NFC South title?

Well, the Saints are on the road for two of their final three games, and it’s obvious that they aren’t nearly as good when they travel as when they play at home. Still, one of those games is at St. Louis and the other is at Carolina. New Orleans also has Tampa Bay at home and many are expecting them to win at least two of those three.

If the Saints win out, they take the NFC South. If the Saints lose one, they will still take the NFC South due to tiebreaker situations with Carolina. The Panthers need New Orleans to lose two and pretty much need to win out to take the division title.

For now, the Panthers have a clear cut path to the playoffs, but they have got to keep winning.

A number of experts predict both the Saints, 49ers, and Panthers to end the season at 12-4. That would still put the Saints as the NFC South champions, Carolina as the fifth seed, and San Francisco as the sixth seed.

For more Carolina Panthers news and updates, visit Carolina Panthers Central.

Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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