Finally the Carolina Panthers give us the answer: play in the NFC South.
So now you have the 7-8-1 Panthers hosting a playoff game with the 11-5 Cardinals coming to play next Saturday. I know it is what it is-you can only play the schedule they give you in the division they put you in but something seems askew here.
Six weeks ago the Cardinals were 9-1 and at that point were the NFC number 1 seed. To be sure what killed them was Carson Palmer’s injury followed by Drew Stanton’s injury. Meanwhile the Panthers were 3-8-1 and on a six game losing streak-and including the tie a seven game winless streak.
However, they came alive with a 4 game win streak to end the season including yesterday’s 34-3 win over Atlanta for the division and a 41-10 win in New Orleans-who was also in the running for the NFC Least crown at the end of the year.
While there is talk that the league may try to change the rules so we don’t have the absurdity of a 11-5 team going on the road to play a 7-8-1 team, I notice that the Panthers are actually 4 and 1/2 favorites Saturday, in fact the line seems to be rising. I think that’s a questionable call to say the least. I mean one big question is whether the Cardinals do get Stanton back or if they have to go with Lindley again.
Still, while the Panthers have looked very impressive in this 4 game streak, this has been against its weak sisters of the NFC South-the two 31 point margin victories in Atlanta and New Orleans with a 2 point win against Tampa Bay thrown in.The other win was against the Browns who collapsed at the end of the year with the flop of Johnny Manziel.
I don’t think you can ignore that all 4 wins were against losing teams. Don’t get me wrong a losing team can win a playoff team-the 2010 Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record and yet did win the wildcard game-they actually beat: the 11-5 New Orleans Saints who actually happened to be the Super Bowl champs from the year before to boot.
Still, when I look at this line I wonder if the odds makers are factoring in the quality of the Panthers’ opponents during this 4 game win streak. As for the Cardinals, I understand that they’re on basically their 4th string QB at this point and their offense sue as looked anemic at times. Still, I think they’re maybe a little underrated here as well. The were actually 7 point underdogs against the Niners-who ended up beating them by 3.
I think that maybe what happened is that the Cardinals’ offense looked so bad against Seattle a few weeks ago that people imagine that’s how bad the Cardinals are now-but that game was probably more about how good Seattle’s defense is than how bad the Cardinals’ offense-though I admit it’s not good with Lindley.