Maybe it’s the cooling weather, maybe it’s the changing of the clocks this weekend, but we’ve reached the point in the 2015 season where we can feel a smidge more confident on making some firm judgments. If they’re wrong, blame it on seasonal affective disorder or Andy Reid’s clock management. (Either one works in a pinch.)
Regardless, we can now safely conclude that the 6-0 Carolina Panthers, a half-game in front of the almost-equally surprising Atlanta Falcons for first place in the continually competitive NFC South, are going to be a force for the remainder of this season. There’s simply no other conclusion to be drawn. Pick up your chips because Riverboat Ron has already eyed your pai gow table from across the floor and you might as well cash out while you can. The Panthers will keep pounding? You better believe.
Before we get to how good they’ve been this year, let’s try and look back into the recesses of our memories for a glimpse of how not-good the Panthers were in 2014. Sure, they won the division last year (their second in a row, even!), but it was with a 7-8-1 record and a negative overall point differential. They did win a home playoff game, yes, before succumbing to the eventual Super Bowl-runner up Seahawks. In May, they drafted 6-foot-4 wide receiver Devin Funchess from Michigan in the second round to address their wax paper-thin depth at that position. In June, they agreed to pay Cam Newton more than $100 million for the privilege of throwing to said draft pick, as well as tight end Greg Olsen and 2014 first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin. But in August, Benjamin tore the ACL in his left knee and the Panthers’ playoff hope seemed grim before the season was even underway.