Grill Bill: Shorthanded LBs, Week 17 flex and Christmas socks

We know Luke Kuechly will be in the middle. Then you've got David Mayo, who would be in line to play an entire game for the first time in his career. The other spot would look like this: 


Yes, I did that lovely drawing. 

Anyway, the Panthers would rotate linebacker Ben Jacobs with defensive backs Colin Jones, Captain Munnerlyn, Kevon Seymour and Jairus Byrd. Who's in when depends on Tampa Bay's formation. If it's a bigger look in running situations, it'd be Jacobs or Jones. If it's faster guys on passing downs, it'd be the other three. If something happens to Kuechly or Mayo, well, they'll plan for that, but it's probably best to not even think about that just yet. 

This group has a history of playing well shortly after learning news that could've knocked them off track, and judging from how they played against the Packers, I'd say so far so good. But on a couple of occasions over the past couple of years, they haven't done as well dealing with distractions that have had time to bubble up and fester.

I usually hate that word – distractions – when it comes to sports, but I don't think it's crazy to be somewhat concerned about how players will react to what's going on. This isn't a storyline based off, say, an opponent yapping. Many of these guys are very close with Jerry Richardson, and they're no doubt affected in some way. 



In your scenario, the Panthers could still win the division if they win in Atlanta and the Bucs upset the Saints.  


The Panthers would lose a tiebreaker to the Falcons, who would have a better division record. 


The NFL doesn't have to announce that as-of-yet scheduled game until next week. That helps them ensure the last game of their regular season is meaningful. And that means NBC will have Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth taking you up to the big ball drop this year. 

I think it's happening even if the Panthers and/or Falcons lose this weekend. 

Next week's slate of games isn't great, and whether it's for the division or a wild card, Carolina and Atlanta will each have something to play for. The only other possibilities would be Cowboys/Eagles (if Philadelphia doesn't lock up the No. 1 seed this weekend) or Jaguars/Titans. 

Two Panthers wins PLUS one Vikings loss PLUS one Rams loss PLUS one Saints loss = No. 2 seed and a bye week.

a. Yes. He's a natural tackle. 

b. Yes. They were much more comfortable with the guy that has nearly 30 starts under his belt. 

c. No. He just hasn't been needed much this year. See: Daryl Williams

d. No. You're smarter than that, Ben. 

To borrow a phrase from Ron Rivera, it really depends on "situations and circumstances." 

Free agency and cutdown day are when this and probably every fan base acts the most unhinged on the Twitter. 

Call my people. That'll get you about halfway there.

Once, but obviously, you have to make sure your mother-in-law sees you wearing them. 

Merry Christmas.

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