Carolina Panthers playoffs? Here’s what has to happen in Week 16
The Carolina Panthers playoff chances are slim, but three games this week could give them new life.
A fast start for the Carolina Panthers in 2018 allowed them to remain mathematically eligible for the playoffs despite a current six game losing streak. Quarterback Cam Newton has been hampered by a sore shoulder and defensive miscues led to a second half collapse but if three games fall their way in Week 16, hope remains entering the final weekend of play.
After returning to the playoffs in 2017 and good start to this season, stomaching the recent downfall has been a hard pill to swallow. The trend of following up good years with disappointing seasons appeared to be in jeopardy early, but the inability to win last week guaranteed the franchise history of non-consecutive winning seasons remains intact.
Following are the three outcomes Carolina needs, beginning with their own.
Atlanta Falcons (5-9) at Carolina Panthers (6-8), 1:00pm ET
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If the Panthers want to extend their playoff hopes, winning their own game is a must. A seventh straight loss would doom the season and give Carolina a losing record. Without Newton, backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke will be responsible for leading the offense and opposite, another solid defensive performance is also needed.
Houston Texans (10-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (7-7), 1:00pm ET
The Eagles have been up and down but three wins in their last four games keeps them alive in the playoff picture and NFC East. However, they face a tough opponent in Houston and even playing at home will need a good effort to secure a win. If Houston is victorious, Carolina’s playoff chances improve.
Minnesota Vikings (7-6-1) at Detroit Lions (5-9), 1:00pm ET
Probably the least likely of outcomes, the Panthers need Detroit to upset the Vikings when they visit on Sunday. Minnesota is in the driver’s seat to control their own destiny by virtue of a tie earlier in the season and would remain in the No. 6 spot with another win. NFC North rivals, the Vikings won 24-9 when these two teams met earlier in the year.
Ultimately, the Panthers need help and the good news is all of these outcomes are at least plausible this week.