5 Reasons Why Carolina Panthers Will Win Super Bowl
Black Cats Will Be Bowling!
We are 11 weeks into the NFL regular season 2013, a time when prematurity is rife among our thinking as we begin to gaze into our crystal balls to determine which team will be left standing when the dust has settled.
The swamps of Jersey is the ultimate destination this year as the NFL rolled the dice by opting to stage their showpiece finale in the open air, in a cold weather climate, for the very first time. Super Bowl 48 will take place on Feb. 2 at Metlife Stadium, the newest arena in the league, opening in 2010 with a record attendance to date of 82,566.
The bigger picture is beginning to unfold, though, it is one of the tightest leagues in recent memory this season; as of Week 11, no team is undefeated, no team is without at least one victory and a quarter of the league is treading water on a 4-6 record whilst searching for an identity.
The largest void between divisional leader and their nearest challenger currently stands at just four games, whilst half of the league’s respective divisions are currently being decided by one game or less.
One of the teams throwing their hat into the playoff ringer is the Carolina Panthers who are emerging as hot property out of the NFC South. Currently in the midst of a scorching six-game winning streak, the Panthers are just one game off the pace in their division. After starting the season at 0-2, they shutout the New York Giants in Week 3 for their first victory of the season — an eye-opening 38-0 win — and haven’t looked back since.
As things currently stand, Ron Rivera’s Panthers have the third-best record in the NFC and are ranked fifth overall in the NFL. Such is the ambiguity and formality of the postseason schedule; the 7-3 Panthers currently find themselves in fifth place in the NFC Playoff picture and looking at a Wild Card spot at very least. As we head toward the home stretch of the regular season, business is certainly set to pick up in the NFC South; with just a single game separating them, the Panthers meet the New Orleans Saints twice in their remaining six games as both teams go in search of that lucrative first-round bye.
Come kickoff time in the Meadowlands in February, it will be 10 years and one day since the Panthers last competed in the greatest show on earth. They came up short against the New England Patriots on that occasion, but here are five reasons why they can go one better in 2013 and add a maiden world championship to their trophy cabinet.
Expect The Unexpected
If the NFL has taught us anything in recent years, it is to expect the unexpected.
Be honest with yourselves; even after seeing them win six games in a row and move to 7-3 on the season, the notion of the Carolina Panthers being the last team standing when it's all said and done remains largely unthinkable.
There are always one-or-two runaway teams that coast through the regular season, looking impeccable and leading us all to believe they are going all the way. The Denver Broncos did it last season, the Green Bay Packers the year before and the New England Patriots before them in 2010. For whatever reason, they always seems to fall short at the most important hurdle. Whether it's because they paint a target on their chests or they rest on their laurels come the postseason, it's very rarely the obvious team that ends up with that ring on their finger.
No team has won the Super Bowl with more than a 10-6 record in the last three seasons. Each winner was involved in a lengthy schedule beginning on Wild Card weekend and had to endure a significant number of road games in which they were considerable underdogs.
Nobody batted an eyelid at the Baltimore Ravens last season as they limped into the playoffs with a 10-6 record. The New York Giants weren't given a sniff in 2011 as winners of a limp NFC East, and they remain the only team in the Super Bowl era to lift the trophy with under 10 regular season victories. If you can cast your minds back even further, the Green Bay Packers entered the playoffs through the backdoor on the final day of the 2010 regular season and, after finishing 10-6, were at best a long shot to get their hands on the Lombardi Trophy.
Cast doubt upon the 2013 Carolina Panthers at your peril.
Winning the Battles To Win the War
When a team suits up on a weekly basis in the NFL, they are preparing for war. The result of which is decided with a "W" or and "L" as all you have to show for an hours worth of strategic blood, sweat and tears.
Embedded into the war are a number of mini-battles which go a long way to deciding the outcome and the bigger picture. The 2013 Carolina Panthers have shown through 10 games thus far, that they are well-equipped to win the little battles that can make all the difference in tight-game situations.
The Panthers outscore their opposition on first downs by 216-172.
The Panthers currently have a better conversion rate than their opponents on third down whilst they have completed five-out-of-seven fourth-down attempts this season, displaying a determination that bodes well for the high-pressure stakes of playoff football.
The turnover ratio also falls in their favor at +10 on the season. Limiting your own mistakes is as important as forcing the opposition to make them in sudden-death scenarios.
In Graham Gano, the Panthers have an efficient kicker; he has converted all but one of his field goal attempts this season whilst leading the league with five field goals on five attempts from 50-plus yards. How often do we see tight playoff scenarios decided by three points or a field goal in overtime? If such occasions arise this year, the Panthers are well equipped.
A Proven Ability To Beat The Contenders
The Carolina Panthers have been quietly improving over the last three seasons and have wowed the nation with some outstanding individual efforts.
In the countless debates surrounding their relevance as a postseason contender, although we reel off statistics that fall in their favor, one statement remains prominent — that's all very well and good, but they can't get it done against the big teams.
The landscape is changing somewhat in 2013. The Panthers are riding a six-game winning streak with the three most-recent teams added to that list falling into that so-called, big teams, category. Over the past three weeks the Panthers have defeated the Atlanta Falcons, who were the top seed in the NFC last season, San Francisco 49ers, who made it all the way to the season showcase, and New England Patriots, who appeared in the AFC Championship game.
Among those three victories against playoff teams from 2012, it was the most recent against the Patriots on Monday Night Football in Week 11 that has really set tongues wagging. To not only hold your own, but come out on top against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick is testament to how far the Panthers have come since their transition in 2011 and further enhances their postseason credentials.
As Joe Flacco proved last season you don't need an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl, though, it certainly helps.
Panthers mercurial QB Cam Newton is the latest in the "elite debate" after some recent sensational performances against the best the league has to offer; when he outperforms Tom Brady under the lights on Monday night, you just can't help but engineer these kind of debates.
Newton was the first of his kind and kicked off the evolution of the mobile quarterbacks that is now all the rage. After exploding onto the scene and sending rookie records tumbling as the No. 1 draft pick in 2011, Newton just will not seem to go away. He can throw, he can run and his ability to evade the pass rush and extend plays with his legs, even in long-yardage situations, is second to none.
His strength in the passing game and equally as a rusher makes him near impossible to read and not mention, a fantasy darling. Newton leads all quarterbacks this season with four rushing touchdowns to his name; he has also thrown the seventh-highest amount of passing touchdowns. Whilst many signal callers become flustered outside the pocket, this is when Newton is at his most dangerous.
Newton's latest outing was interception-free with 209 passing yards, three touchdowns and an additional 69 yards rushing against the New England Patriots and is testament not only to his ability, but his increasing maturity under center. On Monday Night Football in Week 11, Newton proved himself to be the sort of character that thrives in the limelight; there is no bigger stage than the NFL postseason.
"Defense Wins Championships"
Whether you believe it to be an inspirational insight or a worn-out cliche, it still rings true in many cases in today's NFL.
Among the usual suspects such as the 49ers, Seahawks and Chiefs, the Carolina Panthers' defense have emerged as a force to be reckoned with in 2013.
The Panthers rear-guard have provided some phenomenal statistics for us to chew over this season. They hold an all-time record for allowing just one touchdown in the first-half of their 10 regular season games so far. Their 135 total points conceded this year is the lowest and best in the NFL. The Panthers shutout the Giants during a 38-0 mauling in Week 3 and out-defensed the San Francisco 49ers in a gutsy Week 10 effort.
The Panthers' D ranks third overall in the league giving up just 294.0 offensive yards per game on average. They hold up fifth against the pass and third against the run. They also lead the NFL in touchdowns allowed to the opposition, having conceded just 11 in total through 10 games this season — need we say anymore?
This stellar defense is the foundation on which the Panthers have built a strong 7-3 record this season so far, and along with their capable offense under the marshal of Cam Newton, creates the sort of idealistic balance that will lead to long-term success.