4 Carolina Panthers on the hot seat entering Week 17 at Jaguars

The pressure is on these Carolina Panthers players in Week 17...

Donte Jackson
Donte Jackson / Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Which Carolina Panthers are firmly on the hot seat entering their Week 17 road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars?

There seems to be more optimism within the Carolina Panthers than at any stage during the 2023 season. That might be a strange thing to proclaim for a two-win team, but two decent performances in consecutive weeks indicate things are clicking at long last.

It's not been smooth sailing and the Panthers have yet to turn in a complete performance in all three phases. That's been the primary catalyst behind their demise, but noticeable offensive improvements mean a strong end to the campaign is feasible if Ejiro Evero's defense bounces back from a less-than-stellar showing versus the Green Bay Packers.

For the third straight week, the Panthers have the opportunity to play spoiler at the Jacksonville Jaguars. They were once the runaway favorites to win the AFC South, but things are far less certain for Doug Pederson's men after a torrid run of form that firmly places their postseason hopes in jeopardy.

Another fascinating afternoon awaits. Until then, here are four Panthers on the hot seat entering Week 17.

Johnny Hekker - Carolina Panthers P

It might be a tighter game than many anticipate if quarterback Trevor Lawrence isn't at 100 percent. Field position in the warmer Florida climate is going to be crucial. This puts the consistency of Johnny Hekker firmly under the microscope.

Hekker remains one of the league's most consistent punters. His effort percentage inside the 20-yard-line has dropped to 32.9, but this has a lot to do with how far the Carolina Panthers offense got pinned back more often than not before Frank Reich was removed as head coach.

There is added pressure on Hekker to give his defense a fighting chance in this one. If he can meet raised expectations, it'll do Carolina's chances the world of good.