Celebrating is always fun after a score; it's even more fun following a win
Another week is in the books, and the Carolina Panthers (1-6) have yet another loss tallied up on the year. To say this season has been disappointing would be an understatement; it has been both equally frustrating and heartbreaking.
The Panthers have nine games left to play on the year, and any chance of salvaging their season to finish with a respectable record is diminishing with each loss. Once again, Carolina went into the fourth quarter leading but could not close the deal.
So, what does the rest of the season hold for Carolina?
The short answer looks obviously bleak, and if the Panthers continue to let games slip away, especially those they were in a position to win, the organization will see another shakeup similar to the end of the 2009 and 2010 seasons that saw a roster purge and coaching change.
Which of their remaining games could the Panthers potentially win this year? Which ones are they expected to lose? The following will highlight Carolina's remaining schedule and offer predictions of that game's outcome.
The battle of former Heisman trophy winners pits Washington's Robert Griffin III against Carolina's Cam Newton. RGIII has looked spectacular this season and seems to be the leader whom Newton has failed to be in his second year as a pro.
Everything RGIII does in the face of adversity seems to be the polar opposite of Newton.
Last year, the Panthers had their way with the Redskins, but this year could be a different story. The District is revitalized, and football is once again relevant in the Capitol.
Carolina will not make this an easy game for the Washington, and both defenses should get a workout chasing after two mobile quarterbacks. This one has the makings of a shootout as each quarterback will keep their team in contention from start to finish.
This will be the game that Newton overcomes his late-game hurdles and delivers a close win for the Panthers.
Carolina 33, Washington 31
Peyton Manning leads the Denver Broncos to Bank of America Stadium in a game that doesn't figure to be close. This game will mark the return of former Panthers coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
While Carolina would like to shoot for a two-game winning streak, the young, inexperienced secondary will have Manning licking his chops as he will undoubtedly carve up the Panthers defense.
Everyone in Carolina knows how Fox loves his veteran quarterbacks, and with Manning at the helm, he will have both a game manager and playmaker marching the Broncos to victory.
Despite Newton's best efforts to get things going, Von Miller and the Denver defense will make it a long day on that side of the ball.
Denver 28, Carolina 13
The Bucs pulled off an upset of sorts in the season opener down in Tampa. The Panthers didn't look in sync, and despite Newton throwing for over 300 yards, Carolina dropped their first game 16-10.
Tampa Bay has been a little surprising this season, despite their 3-4 record. An unexpected victory over the Minnesota Vikings has them thinking big, and while they have the personnel to get the job done, this will serve as a trap game for the swashbucklers.
Carolina will come out firing from the start and get an early advantage in the game. By halftime, they will turn to their running game to set the tone and burn the clock as they coast to lock up their third win of the season.
A bolder prediction has Jonathan Stewart rushing for over 100 yards in this game, making it the first game in which a Carolina running back reached the century mark in rushing.
Carolina 24, Tampa Bay 13
Monday Night Football will feature two disappointing teams on national television. If there has been a quarterback who has played worse than Cam Newton, it's Michael Vick. He has been a turnover machine this season, and the only reason the Eagles have stayed close in their division is due to their defense which has seemingly let them down recently.
There is a possibility that Vick may not start this game as questions have been raised about Andy Reid's decision-making and the direction of the team this far into the season. For now, we'll assume Vick will be under center.
The big stage has not been kind for the Panthers as they were blown out in their last appearance on prime time, and going into the hostile confines of Lincoln Financial Field won't make their task any easier.
However, the edge goes to Carolina as they have slowly put themselves back together and will look fairly sharp against a woeful Philadelphia team. Newton will shine on the big stage, and with the aid of a balanced attack, will throw for over 300 yards and three scores.
This win will prove to be the Panthers most decisive of the season with the defensive front forcing Vick from the pocket and causing a lot of turnovers.
Carolina 38, Philadelphia 7
After an impressive win on national television, the 4-7 (presumably) Panthers will travel to Kansas City to take on another disappointing team in the Chiefs. However, the short week for Carolina will play a factor, and they will look sluggish from the start.
Kansas City will fail to capitalize on the underachieving Panthers, and despite going into the half with a small lead, will become unglued as the Panthers mix up a combination of runs and short passes to put them ahead.
Expect this game to be a shining moment for the Panthers secondary, as the Chiefs are having issues at the quarterback position and no real leader to guide the Kansas City offense.
This will be a low-scoring, close affair but will end with a Carolina victory and a big bump in team momentum.
Carolina 13, Kansas City 9
The I-85 Rivalry resumes in Charlotte, N.C., as the Falcons travel up the road to wrap up the season series. This game will be reminiscent of their Week 4 matchup as it will be close. The difference will be Carolina blowing a huge lead in the third quarter and failing to come back as their inability to close out games returns to rear its ugly head.
Matt Ryan and Cam Newton challenge each other, but Newton's turnovers prove to be difference as Atlanta takes advantage and turns each one into points. Ryan lives up to his nickname, "Matty Ice," as he plays near flawless football.
Atlanta gets another close win at Carolina's expense and locks up the division title in the process.
Atlanta 35, Carolina 30
Week 15 has Carolina traveling to sunny California to take on the Chargers in what could be the "Battle of Canned Coaches" as both Norv Turner and Ron Rivera have had disappointing seasons. For Rivera, this will be another homecoming for him as he returns to the team where he served as defensive coordinator prior to being named the Panthers head coach.
Of course, the Carolina roster also features former Chargers such as Mike Tolbert, so this game could be known as San Diego West vs. San Diego East.
This game will find Carolina still reeling from their loss against the Falcons, and Turner will have Rivera's number as the Chargers notch a victory against the Panthers. Unlike their 2008 meeting, there will be no Cardiac Cat magic in this one.
San Diego 24, Carolina 14
The last game before Christmas will bring a present to the Panthers and their fans. The Oakland Raiders pay a visit to Carolina, and they have gone through another year of disappointing play. While the Panthers should be favored in this one, it will not be by much.
This game will mark the return of former Panthers return man/backup running back Mike Goodson who was traded to the Raiders which brought offensive lineman Bruce Campbell to town.
Carolina should have no trouble with the Raiders since their strongest asset is the passing game. The running game is at the bottom of league at 31, leaving Carson Palmer to put it all on his shoulders. However, Palmer is no Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Matt Ryan.
The Panthers will take advantage of the Raiders being one-dimensional, and while they will get the win, it will not feature style points. Newton and company play just good enough to put the necessary points on the board, leaving the defense to do the rest.
Carolina 20, Oakland 10
Different year. Different situation. Same result; just not the one Carolina will be looking for in Week 17. This game will be a battle for third place, and while the Panthers were able to defeat the Saints in Week 2, they will not be as fortunate in Round 2.
The Saints will come into this game with pent-up frustration over a lost season that saw suspensions of key players, coaches and their general manager. If anyone thought last year's final game between these two was bad, this year will be worse.
Drew Brees will take advantage of the young Carolina secondary and put up Madden-like numbers nearly matching his production from last year's game in the Superdome. Expect this game to be a high-scoring affair, exceeding that of their first meeting this season.
The New Orleans defense will still be struggling to put it all together, and the Panthers will stay in this game until the fourth quarter when the defense forces a couple of key turnovers. It will be ugly. It will be shootout, but it really won't be close.
New Orleans 52, Carolina 33
It should be a safe assumption that Carolina will not be playoff bound when December wraps up. If anything, the Panthers could find themselves in a position to draft within the top five in next April's draft. Based on this prediction, the Panthers will finish strong at 5-4 with an overall record of 6-10, and perhaps, another top-10 draft pick.
This, of course, is being optimistic because if they continue to struggle to close out games and holding onto leads late in the fourth quarter, their record will be a lot worse.
The games against Philadelphia, Kansas City and Oakland seem to be the only ones they may be favored to win. The problem with predictions is they are just that...predictions. Every game discussed here is pure speculation and should not be taken to heart.
With nine games left to play, anything is possible. Carolina could win all nine of them or lose all nine of them. They could meet the predictions listed here (or get close to it) and split the difference. It's still too early to tell, but Carolina fans are probably speculating on where in the top 10 the Panthers will be picking come spring time.