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Panthers feel at home on the road

Posted Oct 19, 2017

Sunday in Chicago, Carolina has a chance to start a season 4-0 away from home for just the third time in franchise history.

CHARLOTTE - The Panthers haven't won a home game since Week 2 and won't have another chance to win a home game until Week 9.

Yet, entering Week 7 of an NFL season in which parity is the name of the game more than ever before, just two teams have a better record than Carolina's 4-2 mark.

This Panthers team has shown it knows how to win on the road and will have a chance to show it again Sunday in Chicago.

"I know there's a homefield advantage, but it's just football," wide receiver Russell Shepard said. "As long as you play assignment football and you properly prepare, it really shouldn't make too big of a difference."

Yet, most of the time, it does. In an average NFL season, home teams win about 57 percent of the time, but entering Week 7, home teams are just 45-46. That speaks to parity and partially explains why this is the first time since the Panthers began playing football in 1995 that two or fewer teams enter Week 7 with one or fewer losses (the Chiefs and Eagles at 5-1).

The more closely bunched teams are across the board, the more competitive road teams tend to be. The Panthers are rising above the parity away from home so far, winning all three of their road games. They're 1-2 at home.

"I don't look at it like that. I go out there trying to win every game," wide receiver Devin Funchess said. "Whether we're at home, away or a neutral site, I'm trying to get the W."

In the franchise's first 22 seasons of competition, just one Panthers team that finished with a winning record won more games on the road than at home. That was the 2005 team, which went 6-2 on the road and 5-3 at home. Buoyed by an insane year for wide receiver Steve Smith – who enjoyed shutting up opposing fans as much as anyone – that team's ability to travel paid major dividends in the form of two postseason road victories that carried it into the NFC Championship game.

"I remember us having a lot of veteran leadership on that football team. Those guys did a really good job of keeping the bunch focused," said linebacker Thomas Davis, a rookie on the '05 team. "When we went on the road, it was always preached to us, ‘This is a business trip. We're going here for a job, going to walk away with a win. It's not about enjoying the city.'

"That was always the message and something that stood out to me as a rookie."

So perhaps it's not a coincidence that this year's team, which reunited with Julius Peppers this season and signed 13-year veteran safety Mike Adams in the offseason, is doing well away from home.

"This is my first year here, but I think this team has been through a lot of situations," Shepard said. "They've been in some tough environments on the road and have a great veteran presence. The veterans and the coaching staff do a good job of comforting the young guys and coaching them up to be prepared for those kind of environments."

Quarterback Cam Newton has eight touchdowns on the road versus two interceptions on the road, while at home he has one touchdown and six interceptions. His performance and the performance of the team as a whole is a small sample size, but this much is true: Teams capable of winning on the road can win at home as well, and the Panthers will be home for five of their final eight games.