Carolina Panthers: Why They Won’t Make the Playoffs in 2012
Sorry Ryan Kalil, but this isn’t the makings of a Super Bowl team. Rather, it’s the beginning of a disappointing season. These Carolina Panthers were supposed to be playoff contenders at the worst in 2012, and if offensive lineman Ryan Kalil had anything to say about it, they’d be Super Bowl contenders, too. They might do well just to avoid the NFC South cellar this season.
Their slow start in week one should have been a sign. However, we easily brushed off their inability to effectively run the ball and stop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when it counted after they took it to the New Orleans Saints in week two and avoided that dreaded 0-2 hole.
But that week one inconsistency reared it’s ugly head again in week three, as the Panthers were completely out-played in just about every facet of the game in a crushing 36-7 loss. At home.
Out of three early season games, this was the second that had Cam Newton looking like a pedestrian pocket passer. It had the Panthers’ read-option package looking like a joke. Their running backs weren’t up to part. Cam Newton’s accuracy and decision-making was scattered, at best. And the defense absolutely could not stop Eli Manning and the Giants.
Backup wide receiver torched Carolina’s weak defense for nine receptions and 138 yards through the air. That is how bad it was. Backup running back Andre Brown steam-rolled the Panthers to the tune of 113 rushing yards and two scores on the ground.
In every way, this was a clinic. The Giants didn’t just take it to the Panthers. They showed them what good football looks like, and that Carolina is far from performing it on a consistent basis.
Take a step back, take a breath, and realize that this is just three games. I get that, but you also have to realize what has happened through three games. The Panthers couldn’t get anything going against a Buccaneers defense that Eli Manning dropped 510 passing yards on. Their only win came at the hands of a sad 0-2 Saints team that doesn’t even really have a head coach. And on Thursday Night Football in their own backyard, these Panthers couldn’t even show up for more than seven points.
But again, it’s just three games, right? Teams have surely dug themselves out of worse holes. Being 1-2 isn’t the end of the world, after all.
Maybe not, but perhaps it is. Carolina got past New Orleans the first time, but they have to face them again. They have to face the Buccaneers again, too, and they get the formidable Atlanta Falcons twice, starting next week.
After the Falcons, the Panthers face the Seahawks, Cowboys, Bears, Redskins, Broncos, Buccaneers and Eagles over their next eight games. Those aren’t easy matchups. Atlanta is 2-0 and looking extremely tough. Seattle boasts an elite defense and a strong ground game. Dallas showed up the Giants and is always tough. Chicago’s defense is among the best. Robert Griffin III leads a scary Redskins offense. Denver has aspirations of their own with Peyton Manning leading the way. Carolina already lost to a well-coached Bucs squad, and Philly is 2-0 behind the heroics of Michael Vick in back to back weeks.
If all goes well, a die hard Panthers fan could make an argument that Carolina somehow escapes this eight game stretch with a 5-3 record. That would put them at 6-5, and potentially chasing a wild card spot. If we’re going by logic and how the Panthers have performed so far, that’s probably their ceiling in 2012. The NFC South is just too talented. The NFC in general is too good for them to be so inconsistent and complacent.
The worst case scenario, obviously, is that they lose five or more of those tough games, and are out of the playoff conversation before we get to week 11. With a bad defense and an offense that can’t sustain consistency, that’s a real possibility.