It’s a chilly fall day here in Charlotte as NFC South division rivals the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers get set to go head to head in a 1 pm game that will see the Panthers (4-3) try to extend their 3 game winning streak to 4 while the Falcons (2-5) – who were considered Super Bowl contenders at the start of the season – try to get their team back on track.
While some are downplaying the Panthers wins as being games they should have won anyway, Fox Sports columnist Peter Schrager says they matter:
The Panthers have now beaten four different teams. And they’ve beaten those four teams rather handily. Carolina has outscored its opponents 134-38 in those four wins. As for its three losses, only one of them, a 22-6 disaster in Arizona, was a blowout. The Panthers led the Seahawks the entire game in Week 1 and lost 12-7.
They lost on the final drive, on a questionable call, in Week 2 in Buffalo. If a few balls and a few calls go a few different way, the Panthers would be 6-1 and the toast of the league.
They haven’t played anyone? It’s not easy winning one game in the NFL, let alone four. This Panthers team has a promising young defense, led by what I view as the best front seven in all of football, and an emerging young offense.
Newton, historically terrific in the second half of the season, appears to be just getting started. If he has a second half even close to the ones he did in Years 1 and 2, we could be looking at an MVP candidate come January.
But they haven’t played anyone.
This isn’t college football. The Panthers did not pick their opponents back in April and they certainly did not make the Vikings, Giants, Buccaneers and Rams into the outfits we’ve seen thus far.
I’m looking at the NFC and I see one wild-card spot locked up by whichever NFC West power — San Francisco or Seattle — doesn’t win the division. That other wild-card spot? Why not Carolina?
Our notorious inability to finish a game has become legendary. If the Panthers can continue to overcome that, we’ll be in good shape as the playoffs approach. If not? Well, I don’t wanna think about that just now …
In related Panthers news, former Panthers coach John Fox – now coach for the Denver Broncos – was in North Carolina this past week during the Broncos bye week and was admitted to a local hospital after feeling dizzy while playing golf. He’s now scheduled for heart surgery:
DENVER Denver Broncos coach John Fox needs heart surgery and will miss several weeks, team spokesman Patrick Smyth confirmed Saturday night.
The 58-year-old Fox will undergo aortic valve replacement surgery early next week at a hospital in Charlotte, N.C.
The Broncos did not immediately name an interim head coach.
Fox had been told earlier about his heart condition and was hoping to put off the operation until February. As part of his trip to North Carolina over the Broncos’ bye week, he met with his cardiologist and was told to seek medical attention immediately if he felt any discomfort.
On Saturday, Fox became dizzy playing golf near his offseason home and was taken to a hospital, where tests revealed he couldn’t wait any longer to have the surgery.
“I sincerely appreciate all of the support from friends, Denver Broncos fans and so many around the league today,” Fox said in a statement released by the team Saturday night. “Although I am disappointed I must take some time away from the team to attend to this pre-existing health condition, I understand that it’s the right thing to do. I have great confidence in our coaches and players, who are fully committed to our goals.
“I look forward to returning to coaching as soon as possible.”
Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.