Through six weeks of the NFL season, there are only five teams that have not yet lost a game. Some of those teams are to be expected, such as the Tom Brady led New England Patriots and Aaron Rodgers led Green Bay Packers. Others, though, are more surprising, with none coming as more of a shock than the Carolina Panthers, a team that finds itself atop the NFC South and without a loss. But are they legitimate contenders to make a deep playoff run?
Carolina Panthers Overcoming The Odds
Before breaking down the Panthers’ chances to compete for a championship, it’s important to look back and realize just how improbable it is that they’ve done this well. In the training camp portion of the season, the Panthers lost wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the year due to a catastrophic injury. Benjamin was set to enter just his second year in the league, and proved to be one of the league’s best receivers in his rookie campaign.
As a result, the Panthers have had to rely on older players like Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery, as well as younger players like Devin Funchess, at wide receiver. This was expected to be a problem for them heading into the year, but quarterback Cam Newton has developed wonderful timing with all of his receivers for a Panthers offense that has been surprisingly efficient this year.
Carolina Panthers Boast Dominant Defense
Less surprising than the successes of the Carolina Panthers’ offense has been the success of their defense, which is again one of the best in the NFL. In fact, even if the Panthers were not finding success as far as scoring was concerned, they would still be in good shape thanks to their ability to shut their opponents down.
Carolina is seventh in the NFL in yards against per game, as well as seventh in points against per game. The Panthers are conceding just 18.8 points per game to their opponents, which is an exemplary mark and more than good enough to win the NFC South given the defensive flaws in the rest of the teams in that division.
Can The Carolina Panthers Compete?
With a record of five wins and zero losses, the next logical question is whether or not the Carolina Panthers can compete for a Super Bowl. In theory, it is possible that they will, but there is one big question to be asked of them before anointing them one of the NFL’s elite teams.
It has to be asked whether or not the Panthers can consistently beat other great teams, as they have yet to do so. Outside of a relatively impressive win over the Seattle Seahawks, the Panthers’ wins have come against the New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans, and Jacksonville Jaguars. None of whom would be described as good. Until the Panthers string together some wins against top level competition, it’s unclear as to whether or not they are true contenders for the NFL championship.
By: Jason M. Sanin