Nov. 28, 2016
What Panthers' Fans Have to Be Thankful For This Year
In the spirit of the holiday season and in the midst of a disappointing season in which little has gone the Panthers' way, I figured I would take a step back from the negativity and take the time to focus on what us Panthers fans have to be thankful for.
1. Things could be much worse
The Panthers have had some tough breaks this season, and while that's hard to accept for the team's fans, it does show that this is a team that's better than its record shows and not a lost cause like the 0-12 Browns. Carolina has lost five games this season by 3 points or less, all to some very good competition such as the now 9-2 Raiders, the 7-3 Chiefs and Broncos, the 6-5 Bucs, and the 5-6 offensive juggernaut Saints. It's obvious they can hang with the tough teams, and once things click and they begin to close out some of these tight games, they will be a force to be reckoned with. Considering all the injuries the team has sustained this year, it's honestly a miracle that they've performed as well as they have, and I think they deserve some credit for that. As disappointing as this season has been, this team is nowhere near the bottom of the NFL.
2. Much improved defense
There was a point earlier in the season where the Panthers' D seemed as though it couldn't get much worse, and that all hope was lost for the remainder of the season. Yet this defense has managed to overcome youthfulness and injury and has seen steady improvement on a weekly basis in this latter half of the season (although they did take a step back against the Raiders today). The defense has kept the team in games and has been a critical factor in their 3 recent wins. Without this improved play headlined by Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, who knows where the team would be at this point in the season.
3. Playoff hopes still not shattered - yet
While things do seem bleak right now, the truth the Panthers still have a real chance of slipping into the playoffs as a wild card team if they can capitalize on their remaining schedule. They are favored to win three of their last five games, but the other two against the Seahawks and the Redskins are winnable as well (especially considering the Seahawks' performance against the Buccaneers this week). If they can steal a win in at least one of these games (preferably the Redskins who they would be competing with for the last playoff spot), putting them at 8-8 on the year, the Panthers could possibly sneak in and set themselves up for a likely match up against the Giants. The race for the last NFC wild card spot is wide open at the moment, with teams like the Vikings, Redskins, Eagles, Bucs, Saints, and Cardinals all vying for that last spot. The good news is that most if not all of these teams have difficult slates ahead and will surely lose at least two of their remaining games, leaving the door cracked open for the Panthers.
And if things don't work out, there's always next year- with a high draft pick and the retention of a talented roster and good coach in Ron Rivera, things could work in the team's favor next season.
So, Panthers fans, while things haven't gone as planned this season, let's choose to be optimistic and value the many good things we've seen from the team this year. We almost took down arguably one of the league's best teams today! Things are far from perfect, but we still need to stay behind our team and support them as they close out the season, hopefully with some more wins!