ANALYSIS: "A classic what-if loss for the Panthers. Teddy Bridgewater took a sack on the team's penultimate play from scrimmage, turning a potential 57-yard game-tying field-goal attempt into a 65-yard would-be record-setting prayer. That prayer was almost answered, too, as Joey Slye's kick was dead center and missed the crossbar by a foot or so. "I have the leg strength to kick further than that," Slye lamented after the 27-24 loss. Frustrating stuff, but Carolina's ability to go punch for punch with the Saints in the Superdome reinforces what we already knew: Matt Rhule's team is well-coached and well-populated with playmakers who can make things happen, even with Christian McCaffrey's lingering absence."
ANALYSIS: "Who needs to step up: Ian Thomas
It would be easy to say the entire defense that just allowed the Saints to convert 12 of 14 third downs and has been horrible on third down all year. But I'm going with Thomas, because in seven games, he has only seven catches for an offense in which he should thrive. Sure, the tight end has been downplayed somewhat in Joe Brady's scheme. But one reason it has been downplayed is the lack of consistent playmaking ability by Thomas. It makes that position a possible target before the trade deadline."
ANALYSIS: "Two consecutive losses has them coming back to reality after the fast start. They have a chance to change that this week with a winnable home game against the Falcons."
ANALYSIS: "Don't rule out a run at the No. 7 seed, especially with Christian McCaffrey getting healthy."
ANALYSIS: "The Carolina Panthers are better than many expected. But it is still open for debate whether that means they are good.
The Panthers gave the New Orleans Saints all they could handle in Week 7, but as was the case in their other three losses, Carolina just couldn't seal the deal.
The team has at least been keeping games close. Only two of the Panthers games have been decided by double digits (one loss, one win), and only one was decided by more than 10.
Coming up short against the Saints to fall back below .500 was disappointing, but there's some good news on the horizon. According to ESPN (h/t CBS Sports), there's a chance that running back Christian McCaffrey, who has been sidelined since suffering a high ankle sprain in Week 2, will be able to return for Week 8 against the Falcons.
Getting the team's best offensive player back on the field would be a huge boost for a Panthers squad that's at least in the hunt for a wild-card spot in the NFC."
View the best photos behind the scenes of Carolina's Week 7 game against New Orleans in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.