NFL AM: Panthers Rise To The Top Of The NFC


Disrespected Panthers Keep Winning

The Carolina Panthers have been called the worst 7-0 team in the history of the NFL.

After beating everyone’s darlings, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers 37-29, maybe the Panthers will be labeled as the worst 8-0 team of all time?

Or perhaps they’re just really good.

Carolina is an easy team to discount.  Outside of quarterback Cam Newton, who has numerous detractors, the team has very little star power.  There is no No. 1 (or even No. 2) receiver.  Their more than solid tight end, Greg Olsen, doesn’t have his own party bus, a la Rob Gronkowski, and most people wouldn’t recognize their best defensive player, Luke Kuechly, if he was wearing a Kuechly jersey at your local mall.

In fact, there was a Green Bay Packers banner in Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, which provided a little extra fuel for Cam Newton.

“There was a Green Bay banner in Bank of America Stadium — and that just doesn’t match,” Newton said. “… We take pride in having an edge and playing in Bank of America Stadium and playing in front of the Carolinas every week, and it’s something that I feel it was my due diligence to protect” the stadium.

Discount Carolina’s wins all you want.  Entering Sunday’s game, they hadn’t defeated a team with a winning record.  Still, they were able to defeat every team they faced, including the two-time defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks in their house (known as the toughest place for a road team to get a win in the NFL), and now the greatest quarterback in the world, Aaron Rodgers.

We documented all of the things that the Panthers don’t have, but what they do have more than makes up for it.  Carolina has a very good defense with impact players at every level, a solid offensive line, a quarterback who always makes big plays when the team needs them and a gutsy head coach who has the pulse of his football team.

The Panthers are halfway home to a perfect season in the best start in team history, and they’ve taken down preseason Super Bowl favorites, Seattle, Philadelphia and Green Bay along the way.

It’s time to start respecting the Panthers and they can’t do any more to prove that they are indeed the best team in the NFC right now.

Another Week, More Big Injuries

Two Starting QB’s Go Down

Major injuries to stars have been the story for many teams this season, and Week 9 was certainly no different.

Just one week after losing Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell for the season, the Pittsburgh Steelers saw quarterback Ben Roethlisberger go down and leave the game for the second time this year.  The two-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback had to be carted off in the Steelers 38-35 victory over the Oakland Raiders and ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that it’s a foot sprain and he’ll miss a few weeks.

At 5-4, the Steelers are teetering on the edge of the Wildcard race and any more time missed by their starting quarterback will likely deal their playoff hopes a death blow.

The Minnesota Vikings have been one of the biggest surprises in the NFL, as they are tied for first place in the NFC North with a 6-2 record.  Although Minnesota won their overtime battle with the St. Louis Rams, 21-18, they lost quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the fourth quarter as he was hurt scrambling after taking a forearm to the helmet by Rams cornerback LaMarcus Joyner.

“If I could take it back, personally, I would take it back because I’m not a dirty player. I wouldn’t want to take joy from his mom or from his team,” Joyner said. “Was it intentional? Not at all.”

It appeared that Bridgewater suffered a concussion on the play, and his status for next Sunday’s game at Oakland is certainly up in the air.

If the former first-round pick can’t go, Shaun Hill will take the snaps and the drop off won’t be all that severe.

Fantasy Teams Take a Hit

Along with the two starting quarterbacks that went down on Sunday, there were a host of running backs who represent some very high draft picks in fantasy.

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy was having the best game of his season (112 yards and a touchdown) when he went down with a shoulder injury.  Although McCoy doesn’t feel that the injury is serious, the Bills running back missed two games already this season and Buffalo plays the New York Jets on Thursday night.

McCoy doesn’t seem too worried as he told reporters after the win, “I should be fine for Thursday’s game.”

Another player who likely went pretty high in the first round of your fantasy draft is Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy, who left Sunday’s game with a groin injury.  Lacy has been a pretty big disappointment this season, averaging less than four yards per carry with as many fumbles as touchdowns (two).

Lacy had five carries for just 10 yards and a fumble in the Packers loss.

Not only did the Oakland Raiders lose a tough game at Pittsburgh, they also lost their starting running back as Latavius Murray went down with a concussion.  Murray fumbled the ball on the play and head coach Jack Del Rio said he was in the league’s concussion protocol.

The most severe injury to a running back came in New England, as fantasy diamond in the rough Dion Lewis went down in the third quarter of the team’s 27-10 victory over the Washington Redskins.  Lewis clutched his knee and didn’t return.  It’s feared that he tore his ACL and an MRI Monday should give more clarity to the situation.

The Patriots also lost one of Lewis’ blockers, as left tackle Sebastian Vollmer left with a concussion.  The Patriots are down to just five healthy offensive linemen.



About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.