Misery loves company.
The Panthers feel miserable about their 1-2 start, but at least they have good company – and good reason to believe that all is not lost just because of a couple of tough early-season losses.
"This was the third game of the season," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Monday, stressing that it's not time to press the panic button. "We're 1-2. There are a number of teams in this league that are 1-2."
The list reads like a who's who of the NFL. Six of the last seven franchises to win Super Bowls are on the list. Only the New York Giants avoided such a fate, doing so by putting the Panthers on the list with last week's victory.
The Green Bay Packers became the last team to join the 1-2 group with their much-discussed loss Monday night, making it a half-dozen of last year's dozen playoff teams (counting the New Orleans Saints, who are 0-3).
Other bigwigs on the list include the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
A year ago, seven teams started the season 1-2. Three of them rallied to make the playoffs: the Denver Broncos, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Atlanta Falcons.
The Panthers visit Atlanta on Sunday in a game that could turn Carolina's 1-2 record into nothing more than a miserable memory.
Beat the unbeaten Falcons – certainly far from an easy task – and the Panthers pull within one game of them in the NFC South standings, have a head-to-head victory over them and still host them later in the season.
And the chatter about whether the Panthers need to make wholesale changes would fade away – for a week, at least.
"If we start saying, 'OK, these are your problems,' and start making moves, start pulling people, start making changes in philosophies, then there's concern," Rivera said. "We're sticking with who we are and are going to continue working with who we have on this football team. We'll make changes as we feel they're necessary, but it's the third game of the year.
"To me, the big objective – more so than anything else – is to continue to show improvement. We want to show that we've gotten better and that we're getting better."
While nearly half the teams to start 1-2 last season made the playoffs, that won't happen this year because a whopping 15 teams are 1-2.
But some undoubtedly will recover from the slow start, and the Panthers believe they have what it takes to be among them.
"It's still early in the season, and this is still a good team," Panthers center