Before the 2012 season began, Week 13’s matchup could have been looked at as a statement game for both the Carolina Panthers and Kansas City Chiefs—one that signaled where each team was headed not only in terms of this year, but the immediate futures of each franchise.
Until last week—when Cam Newton and Co. notched their third victory over the hapless Philadelphia Eagles—the only implication this matchup held was a little jockeying for the top pick in next April’s NFL draft.
Kansas City now controls its own destiny to do something that the franchise has never done before: Be the first team to take the podium on draft day.
While both the Panthers (3-8) and the Chiefs (1-10) are certainly nowhere near where they wanted to be at this point, it doesn’t mean there aren’t positives to draw from this season.
Kansas City should look no further than running back Jamaal Charles.
One year removed from tearing his ACL, the explosive back is still just that: Explosive. Charles has tallied 195 carries for 928 yards and three touchdowns on the season, and has added another 26 catches for 189 yards and a score out of the backfield.
While his workload has been sporadic—largely due to Kansas City seemingly always being behind on the scoreboard and needing to modify their offensive attack early in games—Charles has done a tremendous job of bouncing back from an injury that has a huge impact on a running back’s ability to do what he does best: run the football.
Should the Chiefs be careful with Charles' workload as the season comes to a close?
And Sunday’s matchup with Carolina should further cement Charles’ status as a superstar in this league.
The Panthers enter Week 13 with the NFL’s 25th-ranked rushing defense, allowing 126.2 yards per game on 4.5 yards per carry (24th in the league) while yielding nine touchdowns on the ground.
This game could actually kick start a historic end-of-the-season stretch for Charles, as the Chiefs still face the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Indianapolis Colts—all of which are subpar against the run, and all teams that Kansas City figures to at least stay competitive with on the scoreboard.
Here is a look at the numbers:
Browns: 118.4 rushing yards allowed on 4.1 yards per carry and 9 touchdowns yielded.
Raiders: 131.2 rushing yards allowed on 4.7 yards per carry and 15 touchdowns yielded.
Colts: 121.2 rushing yards allowed on 4.8 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns yielded.
While Kansas City could opt to decrease the workload of their best offensive player as the season winds down, Charles will be chomping at the bit to gobble up any and every tote of the rock that he can get.
Running backs feast on and win rushing titles with opportunities like this. It’s just too bad that the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson is having a more spectacular year, coming off the same injury as Charles.
Anything is possible, however. And with the season all but over for this team, the Chiefs have only Charles to hang their hat on.
Here’s to a strong finish from Kansas City’s lone bright spot in an all-too-gloomy 2012.
Run Jamaal. Run.
Follow Jeremy on Twitter @KCPopFlyBoy.