Do you think the Panthers still have a shot at playoffs? If so, how do you think they can achieve this? – Yoni in New York
If the Panthers play like they did in the fourth quarter last Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, they absolutely have a shot. The Falcons are representative of the teams remaining on Carolina's schedule, and even with the Panthers struggling on offense for three quarters, they nearly pulled it out.
It's not a stretch to say that when the Panthers return to action Nov. 30 at the Minnesota Vikings, they could be playing for first place. The teams the Panthers are now chasing – New Orleans and Atlanta – have tough home games against Baltimore and Cleveland on Sunday. Next week, the Saints travel to Pittsburgh while the Falcons host 9-1 Arizona.
The Panthers have a history of finishing strong under head coach Ron Rivera. That's obvious thinking back to last year, when Carolina won 11 of its last 12 games following a 1-3 start – a flourish that began with a victory at Minnesota, by the way. But more easily forgotten are Rivera's first two years – the 2011 team that started 2-8 before winning four of its last six, then the 2012 team that won five of its last six after a 2-8 start.
Some people scoff the notion that a 3-7-1 would even be considering its playoff possibilities, but it's certainly better than the alternative.
When the Panthers had an open roster spot at wide receiver, why did they not promote wide receiver Stephen Hill from the practice squad? – David in Charlotte
When the Panthers waived Jason Avant with the intention of creating more reps for younger receivers, they took a look at their practice squad and promoted De'Andre Presley, a prospect who has been in the organization since September of 2013 and had the benefit of working in the system all offseason. Hill, by contrast, was signed this September to the practice squad, which acts primarily as a scout team for the active roster.
"Just knowing our system – that's probably the biggest reason," Rivera said. "We like Stephen. We think he's going to have his opportunity, but the other guy that we wanted to take a look at was De'Andre, who also has some return skills and abilities that we also want to look at."
Since Greg Hardy's court date has been moved back to 2015, is there a chance we will have him back in the lineup this season? – Chase in Marshville, N.C.
Rivera was asked earlier this week if the NFL's ruling that Vikings running back Adrian Peterson won't be considered for reinstatement until 2015 signaled that Hardy wouldn't be able to return this season.
"Probably, but we'll find out," Rivera said. "That's something (general manager) Dave (Gettleman) and them are going through right now. Seeing what happened, obviously they're going to react to it, and we'll go from there."
Peterson and Hardy were both placed on the exempt/commissioner's permission list in September pending the outcome of their legal cases. Peterson's case was recently resolved, and the hope in his camp was that his time on the exempt list would be considered time served. The fact that it wasn't, combined with the fact that Hardy's case won't be resolved until after the season, doesn't bode well for a late-season return for Hardy.