Somehow, after a long season of heartbreak and disappointment, the Panthers are fun to watch again.
Last Sunday, I actually looked forward to kick off against the Chargers. This week, I’m legitimately excited for the Raiders game. It’s amazing how fun this league is when your team is winning.
The Cats are looking to win four of their five games leading into Christmas, just as they did last season. We all thought then that it was a preview of what could be an 11-5 type season this year. And while it didn’t, the end of this season has brought the same optimistic feelings for next year’s squad.
Everything has looked better lately. The intensity level is much-improved and there seems to be a new-found confidence all the sudden. Cam Newton has been sensational (13 total touchdowns since his last pick,) DeAngelo Williams is actually getting the ball and breaking tackles (324 total yards in his past three games,) and most importantly, the players look like they’re having fun again.
I have a golden rule when it comes to fandom: Regardless of how things go, you support them as long as they’re trying their best. If they decide to quit, you can too.
Despite countless injuries, an annoying inability to run the ball, nonstop national media criticism of 23-year old Newton and the fans wanting to run Ron Rivera out of town, this team has never quit and is now seeing the reward of its hard work.
The Panthers might be 5-9, but as you are likely aware, this is far from a bad team. Seven of nine losses this season have come by six points or fewer. That means just add one touchdown in each of those games and viola: the Cats are 12-2. To further support the legitimacy of this team, all five wins have come by more than seven points. The Panthers still have a decent chance to finish the season with a positive point differential (currently just -22.)
As far as this game goes, the vibes are good. While there’s always a chance for a head-scratching loss, this game has blowout written all over it. It has the feel of last season’s home finale, also the final game before Christmas, when the Panthers took out a season full of frustrations on Tampa Bay in a 48-16 win. I honestly think there’s a better chance of winning this game by 20+ than losing it. We’ll see.
Only time will tell if the Panthers can: A) Finish this season on a high note, and B) Actually take this progression into next season. But at least for now, as we prepare to watch the Cats try for their first three-game winning streak since 2009, it’s fun to be a Panthers fan.