The world did not come to an end as the Mayans had predicted, so that is good news for the Panthers as they get to play a downtrodden Raiders team on Sunday to close out their home schedule. After a brutal start to the season, Carolina is one win away from matching their record from a year ago and have a chance to better it with one game remaining on the docket.
The Panthers are riding the kind of natural high associated with their first winning streak of the season, and one player has been instrumental in that success. Thomas Davis has come back from injuries that would have sent others into retirement, and along with his off-field charity and volunteer work, he now has the honor of being the Panthers’ nominee for a very significant award named after an NFL legend.
The way they have been playing of late the Panthers were probably looking forward to taking on the reeling Chargers. That is, until the Friday injury report put them behind the eight-ball with eight starters on it, three definitely out and possibly two more ready to join them.
In a season chocked full of rookie sensations, one is rapidly climbing the Defensive Rookie of the Year ladder. Linebacker Luke Kuechly leads the league in tackles, just like he led the nation at Boston College, and despite the Panthers losing record, he could get serious consideration for the top first year player award. Carolina is also knee deep in players on injured reserve.
You can call him short, stout or thick, but one thing you can’t say about Mike Tolbert is that he is greedy. The Coastal Carolina University standout reportedly left more than $1 million behind in San Diego when he signed with the Panthers as a free agent, and he could be one of the most underrated players on the team.
As a season winds down, you can always count on someone saying, “If the season ended today …..,” but in the Panthers’ case, it would be “If the season STARTED today …..,” as in six weeks ago. Over that span they are 3-3 and coming off a solid win against a division rival while Cam Newton is looking more like he did last year than in the first seven games of 2012.
In a season filled with injuries, the Panthers are very used to saying, “Next man up.” This week is no different as they have to replace their number one back and number two receiver as they host the 11-1 Falcons who are in a lot better shape, physically.
Not many people knew what to expect when the Chiefs hosted the Panthers on Sunday, because there was nothing to compare it to, but right from the opening drive there was a sense the home team was about to play their best game of the season. And they did, despite the horrific murder-suicide that took place a little more than 24-hours earlier.
Head coach Ron Rivera pretty much put the kibosh on running back Jonathan Stewart being available to play in Kansas City but with the ground game the way it has been all season, quarterback Cam Newton will more than likely lead the team in rushing once again. DeAngelo Williams wilkl be hard pressed to match him yard for yard.
The Panthers have had their fair share of injuries this season, so once again they have to reach into their bag of reserves and pluck out second-year tackle Sione Fua to take over for Ron Edwards, who is gone for the season with a dislocated elbow. Meanwhile, running back DeAngelo Williams is getting the reps while Jonathan Stewart nurses his second high ankle injury of the year.