When a bad season is over it is said to have ended mercifully, but in the case of the Panthers there is a real sense that the best is yet to come despite a 7-9 record. Cam Newton may have come of age in a single 60 minutes of play while head coach Ron Rivera gave his boss, Jerry Richardson, something to think about when it comes to his job. Happy New Year, Panthers’ fans!
For the fourth time in the last five seasons, the Panthers will close out the season against the division rival Saints, and the only thing on the line for either club is to finish on a positive note. Carolina desperately wants to surpass last year’s win total while New Orleans, disappointed that they will miss the postseason for the first time since 2008, is looking to go 8-8.
The Panthers are playing the way many expected them to early in the season so one might say it is better late than never. If fans thought their team played a well rounded game against the Falcons last weekend, the whooping they put on the Chargers on Sunday was as good, if not better.
With just three games remaining, the Panthers need to run the table to better their record from a year ago and there is chance that could happen with the Raiders next week and Saints in the season finale. But before Carolina can look ahead to either of those games they have to take down a Chargers team that just might be having a more disappointing season despite having one more victory than the Panthers.
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.
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.
The Buccaneers come to town on a roll and want to head back to Tampa Bay with their first four-game win streak since 2008 even though they have dropped three of their last four at Bank of America Stadium. The Panthers, on the other hand, simply need a victory if they hope to make some lemonade out of what has been a lemon of a season.
Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy is the latest member of the Panthers to be shown the door, so it is a pretty good bet there will be more to follow. So as long as everyone is being “evaluated,” isn’t it time to look at those who run the offense for the defensive-minded head coach, Ron Rivera?