November 10th @ San Francisco 49’ers
Unfortunately for the Carolina Panthers, the game is in San Francisco and the Niners are in the process of getting back a lot of their injured players along with standout defensive lineman Aldon Smith. Mario Manningham may be back along with others. The good news is that they likely won’t be in top game shape, so if the Panthers are going to win this one, it’s best that they play them sooner rather than later.
I probably don’t have to remind you all that their QB is very similar athletically to Oakland’s quarterback Terrell Pryor. I’d much rather see a healthy Richard Pryor at QB in this game, but Colin Kaepernick has even more speed than Cam Newton. He doesn’t have Newton’s power, but he’s not asked to “truck” linebackers either.
Not clear who all will be back for the west coast team, but I think this game should be pretty close and the first team to 17 points probably wins it. If you twisted my arm, I’d say…
San Fran by 3.
November 17th vs. New England Patriots
Intriguing game here as the Patriots come to Charlotte. The Pats are finally beginning to get some firepower on offense as TE Rob Gronkowski is back and a threatening presence in the seams over the middle and will give Carolina’s upgraded safeties their first big test of the season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since they’ll be seeing TE Jimmy Graham two of the final four games.
I don’t see the Patriots being able to run the ball and I don’t see them being able to do much about stopping Carolina’s power running game, either. That translates into a shortened game with fewer chances for Brady to do damage. With the Panthers’ pass rush, they seem built eerily similarly to those Giants teams that beat the Patriots twice to win the Super Bowl.
Brady doesn’t even like to be touched, let alone hit and sacked.
I think the Panthers take it by seven.
The over/under for Brady whining to officials about non-late “hits” is eleven.
November 25th @ Miami Dolphins
News is breaking right now about a complicated situation in South Florida where LG Richie Incognito has been suspended for “conduct detrimental to the team.” He’s widely considered the NFL’s dirtiest player, which includes Ndamukong Suh of the Lions. He left a racist, filthy, and hate-filled voicemail on tackle Jonathan Martin’s voicemail back in April, and he’s is DONE with the team. The Dolphins are going to hold onto him due to CBA rules regarding penalties and fines for that behavior, but as soon as they minimize their financial responsibility to him, his NFL career is likely over. Once “Mr. Irrelevant,” the aptly-named Incognito will soon fade back into….incognition? Hey, a new word for the Urban Dictionary! But I can’t define it here. We’re a “family” website.
Their loss is Carolina’s gain, as the Dolphins have given up the most sacks in the NFL. They won’t be able to fall back on the running game against the Panthers and unless second-year QB Ryan Tannehill can be pretty much perfect on a ton of short passes, this game looks like a blowout waiting to happen.
Carolina by 24.
December 1st vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Act II of the same play we just saw a couple of weeks ago.
Tampa Bay will have a new coach by then…but little hope as it’s too late to salvage much of a season.
Panthers by 20.
December 8th @ New Orleans Saints
Let’s be realistic, here. the Sean Payton/Drew Brees combo is as lethal as any in the NFL and the Saints’ defense has VASTLY improved over last year. The team is almost invincible in the Superdome and although the Panthers are improving and well on the upswing, they don’t have the firepower to slug it out here against the Saints.
New Orleans by 10.
December 15th vs. New York Jets
Okay, so the Jets win every OTHER week it seems like. Unfortunately, this is the week that the Jets win on. Their team is built to defeat teams built like the Carolina Panthers, too. I don’t like it, but I do call ‘em how I see ‘em. Call it an “upset” or whatever, but…
Jets by 6.
December 22nd vs. New Orleans Saints
A rematch only two weeks after the initial meeting earlier in December. With the Panthers having the home field advantage this time (or at least not the Superdome DISadvantage), film study of the Saints’ offense, and the benefit of playing them again so soon means it’s unlikely the Saints will change up much of their game plan other than the fact they will TRY to run more against Carolina the second time around. They have some good backs, a decent line, and a defense worrying about the pass first.
This time around, however, I think the Panthers will just out-muscle their rivals from Louisiana and win this one in a squeaker.
Carolina by 1.
December 29th @ Atlanta Falcons
It’s usually as difficult to win in the Georgia Dome as it is in the Superdome, but the Falcons will have been long eliminated from playoff contention and didn’t show much against the Panthers in their 34-10 loss a week ago. Things might be a tad closer here, but not really by that much as Carolina fights for a wild card spot to the end of the season.
Carolina by 13.
The end result looks like a 10-6 season for the surging Carolina Panthers and possibly a #6 seed in the NFC playoffs. I don’t see a wild card coming from the NFC East. Detroit could push for one in the North, and the fact that Carolina will have lost to both Seattle and San Francisco (in this scenario) means whoever doesn’t win the NFC West will have the tiebreaker over the Panthers there, so the road to the playoffs is going to be narrow and difficult for this gelling squad.
With a good draft in 2014, the Panthers could well become one of those 13-3 teams next year, but we’re not quite done here.
Even as a 6th seed, with the crushing defense the Panthers have, they will be the most intimidating team in the NFC playoffs, period.
Once they get to the playoffs, anything can happen. Getting to the playoffs is all that matters.
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