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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: Road ready


The road hasn't been kind to the Carolina Panthers of late, but perhaps this time around, it will be kinder and gentler.

The Panthers will begin a stretch of three consecutive road games – a rare undertaking in the history of the franchise – with a trip to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The time away from home will then continue with games at the Indianapolis Colts and at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

There's no place like home, but there may be no better time for a road game. Carolina, competitive in every game over the first half of the season, ended a three-game homestand last Sunday with a lopsided loss, 30-3 to the Tennessee Titans.

The reality is, many teams at both ends of the standings spectrum have endured such a clunker. Both the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants – a pair of 6-3 teams – have fallen victim to the 3-6 Seattle Seahawks, and one of the St. Louis Rams' two victories came at the expense of the NFC South-leading New Orleans Saints (7-3).

The Panthers' 27-point loss dropped them to 2-7, but three of the four other NFL teams with two of fewer victories have lost at least one game by more than 27 points.

It seems that many teams' extremes follow bye weeks, as was the case with the Panthers. Teams are 13-15 in their game after the bye week – about what you'd expect – but about 30 percent of teams coming off a bye week have responded with arguably their worst or their best game of the season.

The Panthers, their next opponent and their last opponent head the "worst game" list. Detroit is coming off a 37-13 loss to the Chicago Bears in its post-bye game, and Tennessee earlier lost 41-7 at home to the Houston Texans following its bye.

On the other hand, Kansas City and Buffalo stormed out of their byes with shutout victories over Oakland and Washington respectively, and about the only life the Philadelphia Eagles have shown this season was their 34-7 romp over Dallas coming off their bye.

Teams are 10-14 in their second game after the bye, and that's where the Panthers now find themselves.

They head to Ford Field on an 11-game road losing streak, the longest skid in the NFL. The drought, however, shouldn't be much of a cause for concern for this team.

First of all, despite an 0-3 road record this season, the Panthers have played well away from home. A pivotal punt return in Arizona and a crucial interception in Atlanta spelled the difference between winning and losing. In between, a punt return and interception keyed a loss in Chicago, a game the Panthers dominated in many areas.

The Panthers could probably use a little time away. They opened the fifth three-game homestand in franchise history with a victory over the Redskins on Oct. 23 and had hoped that would build some momentum. Instead, they stumbled down the stretch before the bye week against Minnesota and struggled throughout against the Titans.

The expectations for this team had increased, as Coach Ron Rivera pointed out again Monday, and the weight of those expectations appeared to take a toll Sunday in front of an understandably displeased home crowd.

Perhaps the Panthers will be better able to focus away from home, where a chorus of boos would sound like a sweet song signaling success.

The Lions game will kick off just the fourth three-game road trip in franchise history and the first since 1998. That year, the Panthers went 1-2 during a three-game homestand and 0-3 on a three-game road trip.

Here's hoping they don't repeat that performance – or their performance against the Titans.

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