Ron Rivera bristled when asked something similar to this Tuesday, but it's a fair question.
The Panthers went into the bye No. 1 in yards allowed, No. 3 in points allowed and No. 4 in passing yards allowed. Six weeks later, they've fallen to 7th, 16th and 11th in those respective categories.
Big plays through the air have to be the most concerning issue.
In their first 10 games, the Panthers allowed 25 pass plays that gained 20-plus yards. In their five games since, they've allowed 21 such plays. And after going their first eight games without allowing a receiver to hit 100 yards, the Panthers have allowed five different players to hit the century mark in their past seven games.
Because they're stonewalling the run, putting a ton of pressure on quarterbacks and currently forcing turnovers in bunches, I wouldn't say the defense is "in trouble." But as most of us focus on offensive issues heading into the postseason, it's not crazy to be at least somewhat concerned about a defensive backend that's continuing to give up yards in chunks.
Email from Jonathan: How many times has Cam Newton made the opponents' defense jump offsides this season? He's done it a lot lately and it's been quite entertaining!
After drawing opponents offsides only a couple of times through the first 13 games, Newton has gotten each of Carolina's last two opponents to jump four times. Clearly Cam has stepped up his cadence game.
Neutral zone infractions don't include the automatic first down bonus. So for the Panthers, that situation was, yeah, crappy.
Star Lotulelei's push that got him flagged for unnecessary roughness certainly appeared to come after the whistle, which came after the Bucs held Julius Peppers in the end zone. But the rule apparently isn't what many assumed. Including Rivera.
"I thought you get the safety and then they tack on the fifteen yards when they have to kick," he said after the win.
"That was my understanding that it happened as a dead ball. But they said it still offsets."
Email from Joan: *Is it possible for the Panthers to be owned by the fans like the Green Bay Packers? *
If you can get a couple of dozen fans that make as much as Stephen Curry, maybe. But even then someone in that group would have to write a check for what will probably be more than half a billion dollars.
The league allows the Packers to maintain their unique setup, but that's the only one we'll ever see. The NFL now has a rule that limits team ownership to 25 individuals.
For what it's worth, Packers fans who have ownership rights have only slightly more control over their team than you and I. The stock isn't worth much and everything is pretty much run by a board of directors and a seven-member executive committee.
So while it'd be fun to own some stake in your team, the NFL is only interested in those with billionaire-sized pockets.
In the interest of transparency, I need to admit I had to Google broscience. Thank goodness for the Urban Dictionary.
And while I used to do CrossFit (which I never talked about, but now I am, so does that make me one of those crossfitters that always talks about it even though I'm not doing it anymore???), I never did the compression socks thing. But I did ask and get this from Santa Claus on Monday which will hopefully help me get through training for my first half marathon.
I'll go with door No. 2.
We know this year's results against the Saints, and I don't agree with folks who believe beating a team three times is radically difficult. The Panthers are capable of winning a third matchup, but they'd likely have to play a near-perfect game.
That's not to say traveling to the other side of the country to play the league's top-scoring offense would be a cakewalk. But I'd rather take my chances against a team with no playoff experience and a second-year quarterback than one led by a Hall of Fame quarterback who helped outscore you 65-34 this season.
The practice squad wideouts are Jamaal Jones and Rasheed Bailey. Neither have speed like Curtis Samuel or Damiere Byrd. And while I understand fans' desire for the Panthers to add someone/anyone, players who can truly help aren't just sitting on their couch right now.
Losing Byrd could be significant, especially since he was gaining more confidence with each passing week. But it's up to Kaelin Clay to be the speedster who can stretch the field now. This guy is available, though: