Do the Carolina Panthers have any chance of securing the season's biggest upset in Week 11 against the Dallas Cowboys at Bank of America Stadium?
When a team is struggling to find any sort of consistency, the last thing they want is coming up against a team that holds hope of lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy. That's exactly what faces the Carolina Panthers this weekend.
With the Panthers sitting at 1-8 following their dismal loss at the Chicago Bears on Thursday Night Football, their next obstacle is overcoming the Dallas Cowboys. This is a team with big-time ambitions in 2023 and has a fierce reputation for easily disposing of inferior opposition.
Another fine example of this arrived in Week 10 against the New York Giants. The Cowboys were up 28-0 at half-time before eventually triumphing 49-17, so the size of the task awaiting Frank Reich and his players at Bank of America Stadium couldn't be greater.
This has got blowout written all over it.
Most sportsbooks have the Panthers as 10.5-point underdogs. This seems a little on the light side considering the current trajectory of both teams - especially given it is likely to resemble a home game for Dallas as Carolina's disillusioned fanbase votes with their feet.
Carolina Panthers must show some fight in Week 11
Instead of taking the pessimistic approach, Reich called on his players to seize the moment and relish the opportunity of going up against such a high-caliber opponent via USA Today Sports. Whether it will have the desired effect or not is another matter.
"I would think if you talk to most of the players, they might not admit it—but when you’re going up against a hot team, it’s an opportunity. Things have not been goin’ well for us as a team. So, it’s an opportunity. It’s a great opportunity to go up and prove that we’re a good football team. We beat one good football team, we need to beat another good football team. This team is hot. They have a lot of firepower on offense. They have some big-time playmakers on defense. They’re good in all three phases. They’re a well-coached team and they got a lot of a firepower. So, it’s a great challenge for us and I think our coaching staff and our players are excited for that."- Frank Reich via USA Today Sports
There are no expectations whatsoever for the Panthers this weekend. That's not to say the stakes aren't high for some in prominent leadership positions with their futures under scrutiny, but it might allow them to play with an extra sense of freedom in the pursuit of what would be the season's biggest shock by a considerable margin.
That sounds good, in theory. Even if it completely ignores Carolina's inept offense and their overmatched pass-rushers versus a stout Cowboys offensive line.
In reality, not even the brightest optimist is expecting a win. The Panthers aren't in the same stratosphere as Dallas right now and this is likely to be reflected in the final score when it's all said and done.
What the fans are looking for is simple. Be physical. Do not take one backward step. Scrap for absolutely everything. Execute with more effectiveness. Coach with purpose rather than being scared of repercussions.
It's not a lot to ask for. Just have some pride in your performance and prove to everyone that you aren't going to roll over willingly to become the NFL's laughing stock.
The result might not go their way. But there are still ways the Panthers can gain some semblance of respectability from their upcoming encounter.
And make no mistake, we'll find out how much fight remains in the locker room either way.