This would appear to be an example of two NFL franchises heading in opposite directions. The Cowboys' elevator is in free-fall towards the sub-basement while the Panthers are quickly rising to the penthouse.
Consider the Jones boys in Big D. Especially starting QB Tony Romo. Da Boys went 2-0 to open the season, but then Romo suffered a broken clavicle/collar bone. He would be out for a couple months. Enter back-up QB Blaine Gabbert. He would go 0-3, no surprise there, before being benched in favor of Matt Casell. MC went 0-4 and presto, the Cowboys were then 2-7, their playoff chances slim indeed. But then back came Romo. His first game was a win. 3-7. Could there still be hope?
Turned out -- not. The undefeated Carolina Panthers hit town for the turkey day game and not only blistered the Cowboys in their own opulent back yard, but Romo was re-injured, perhaps the very same collar bone. Sure looked like it. If so, Romo is likely done for the year. Regardless, make that 3-8 with an exclamation point and tell the fat lady she can commence singing her aria. It's over this year in Dallas.
On the other hand, wunkerkind/freak Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are now 11-0. Only the New England Patriots also remain undefeated, but they have a major problem with receivers. As in, they're running out of them. The first and second stringers have been lost to injury, and a C-teamer just went down. Between their head coach and their QB, no names needed -- you know them -- the Pats have long been famous for plugging various holes over the years with no-namers and continuing to get the job done, but good grief. Arguably the best QB of all time still needs speedy receivers that can run routes, catch passes, and take the inevitable hits. More on that in a future post.
Nevertheless, that begs a question nobody would have remotely considered when this season began. Can the Carolina Panthers go through the regular season undefeated? The answer is -- actually it's quite possible. Consider their remaining schedule.
A game at New Orleans. The Saints are back to being the Aints. Home and home with the Atlanta Falcons. A decent team at 6-4, but nothing special. The NY Giants. They're 5-5. Eli's still prone to bonehead plays and head coach Tom Caughlin still has that exasperated/clueless look about him. Shouldn't be a problem. And the Panthers finish up with Tampa Bay. The Bucs remain the Bucs. No other explanation necessary.
And wouldn't that be something if it happened? Hey, despite their current gaudy 11-0 record, closer inspection reveals a couple other things about Carolina. It's not just Cam. Their defensive front is very tough to run on. The linebacker corps is led by likely the best overall backer in the league, one Luke Kuechley.
Both on offense and defense, the Panthers have made plays when they needed to all season. Look at it this way----
If a team has scored over 120 points more than they've given up, they're obviously doing a whole lot of things right. And there's no reason whatsoever to think they can't continue their stellar play, especially given their remaining schedule mentioned above.
The Panthers are already a lock for the playoffs. The only question that remains is whether they'll sew up home field advantage throughout. Granted, the Arizona Cardinals have an even more impressive plus/minus ratio when it comes to points, but they've suffered two defeats. With only five games remaining, the Cards would pretty much have to run the table and hope the Panthers stumbled badly down the stretch to wrest away home field advantage in the playoffs. That's likely not going to happen.
Carolina is gaining more confidence by the week. Barring major injuries -- especially to Cam Newton -- these guys are going to be a mighty tough out when the playoffs roll around. Particularly if they're playing at home.
On a related note -- New England plays at Denver this Sunday night. Will they stay undefeated as well? Maybe. The Pats are scrambling for receivers but the Broncos will be starting a QB nobody ever heard of before. Mercifully, it appears the Peyton Manning era has finally limped to an end. When a guy with that many years in the league starts throwing more picks than TDs, something is terribly wrong. Frankly, it's called Father Time. He always wins in the end. It will be interesting to see how that game plays out.
Even MORE mercifully, perhaps a day will come -- the sooner the better -- when we fans will no longer have to gag over Peyton's moronic TV ads. If the plug has finally been pulled on his football career, then please -- god have mercy, PRETTY PLEASE -- somebody put an end to these stupid commercials. Peyton never needed the money in the first place. He's got millions on top of more millions from playing football. The endorsements, particularly when he dragged his dopey brother along, only prove the family has no shame.
But for now -- go Panthers.