The Panthers Just Made Their Road To The Super Bowl Much Easier
Robert Frost would be proud. Many fans may have thought that the Panthers would do what they have been known to do in the past; squander an easy opportunity staring them in the face. But this Panthers team is different and they will be taking the road less traveled, at least from their perspective.
With a loss, the Panthers would have played on the road next week and would have likely had to play against both New Orleans and Seattle on the road if they were to make it to the Super Bowl. But instead the Panthers will get to rest their bodies this week and watch next weeks game from the comfort of their own homes. Then they'll play the winner of San Francisco versus Green Bay in Charlotte the next week. Both home field advantage and getting a week to rest are huge for the Panthers Super Bowl hopes.
The Falcons Are Close
The Falcons showed a lot of fight throughout the game on Sunday and although they ended up losing they showed that they do have potential in the future. Playing without Julio Jones for a good part of the season and having a young defensive secondary battling with veteran receivers all year, the Falcons showed flashes of promise on Sunday. There is a lot of work to be done, but the Falcons will begin to put the pieces together sooner than later.
Nine Sacks Is Impressive...
It's likely that no one was surprised that the Panthers were able to record nine sacks on Matt Ryan on Sunday, but that they actually did it was pretty impressive. Coming up three short of the NFL record for sacks in a game, the Panthers defensive line was continually harassing Ryan. This will have to continue to be a major part of the Panthers game if they are going to make a deep run in the playoffs.
...But Allowing Atlanta To Score 20 Points Is Not
The Panthers defensive line can't do it all. Eventually the secondary has to step up and play more consistently. It should worry Panther fans that the Falcons were able to score 20 points on them. Teams come to play on a different level during the playoffs and while the Panthers defensive line will likely continue to dominate, opposing quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Peyton Manning are looking forward to passing against the Carolina secondary.
The Panthers Better Go Ahead And Pay Super Man
No team in the NFL is consistently successful year-to-year without a star quarterback. Those types of players don't come along every season, but fortunately for the Panthers they have one. Cam Newton continues to show signs that he has figured out this whole NFL game. And I don't think he's finished learning yet. It seems that Newton has learned when and how to use his running ability without getting hurt. He's more patient and wow, does he have an arm. Give him another offseason where he can learn more about the offense, improve his mechanics, and not try to throw the ball through a brick wall every time he chunks it and he's going to be even better than we've seen to this point. He's also proven to be a huge ambassador for the game and for the Charlotte community.
From small things like handing the ball to a kid EVERY TIME the Panthers score and high fiving fans after a game to the charities that he supports throughout the year, Newton isn't just any other quarterback. And while Newton is confident, he's not so arrogant that he doesn't realize his place in the NFL and appreciates those veterans that have shown him and other young players how to play the game. In comments that were heard after the game, Newton thanked future Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez for being a role model for "guys like him". He understands that this isn't all about him and that alone puts him in a different group of players. The Panthers better go ahead and lock him up. There are deep pockets throughout the NFL that will jump on the chance to get him if the Panthers don't go ahead and get things done.