Panthers Pounce Into Playoffs - Kind Of
This Saturday, the Carolina Panthers will do, what just weeks ago, seemed extremely unlikely. They will host an NFL playoff game. It's what sports fans could consider Carolina’s Christmas season miracle.
At their post-season press conference on Monday, Panthers Coach "Riverboat" Ron Rivera gambled by telling the world just how the team will beat the Arizona Cardinals.
"We’ve got to go out and play well. We’ve got to play well enough to win."
(What did you expect? He’s an NFL coach at a press conference.)
But with a regular season record of just 7 wins, 8 losses and one tie, playing well enough to win isn’t what this team has been known for much of the season. This is a team that went 62 days without a win. Rivera said that made each game in their final month "a do or die situation." And each game in December was a W. Coach Rivera had this to say to all those who don't think the team belongs in the playoffs.
"OK. I mean seriously, that’s it. If that’s how people want to look at it that’s fine."
And some will look at it that way. Carolina is only the second team with a losing record to make the playoffs. In fact, seven of the 20 NFL teams which did not make the playoffs, had a better record than the Panthers. Still, the Panthers ended up winning their division – The NFC South. It's a division that will be marked as one of the worst in NFL history.
The big brains at Nate Silver’s website 538 ran the numbers and found the 2014 NFC South is the second worst division in the history of the NFL. The worst? 2008 iteration of the NFC West.
Still Ron Rivera says the history, the stats, that record - none of it matters now.
"The bottom line is we’ll show up. We’re going to play on Saturday. We’ll do the best we can and we’ll see what happens after that."
Kickoff for the Panthers-Cardinals is at 4:25 p.m.