Three Panthers perspectives on Super Bowl LI

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1. With the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots set to square off in Super Bowl LI on February 5, the Panthers already know they'll face the reigning Super Bowl champion for the 18th consecutive season in 2017. It will mark the 12th time during the streak that the matchup has occurred in the regular season (six times it was a preseason matchup).

The streak began in the 2000 regular season with a victory over the St. Louis Rams fresh off their dramatic victory over the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. That began a streak of four consecutive victories over reigning champions in the regular season, but in 2006, Carolina started another streak that it would love to end. Beginning with a loss to the Steelers that year, the Panthers have now dropped their last nine regular season games against reigning Super Bowl winners.

The best way to stop the 18-year streak of seasons of matchups against Super Bowl winners? That's easy: Win the Super Bowl yourself.

2. The NFC South has risen in terms of public perception by now sending teams to the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons – not that common an occurrence.

In the 16 Super Bowls contested (including the upcoming one) since the current division alignment took effect in 2002, a division has been represented in the Super Bowl in consecutive years just four times. Twice, it's been the NFC South, and both times it involved the Panthers.

The Buccaneers and Panthers reached the ultimate game following the 2002 and 2003 regular seasons, then the Patriots represented the AFC East all by themselves in 2004 and 2005. The 49ers in 2013 followed by the Seahawks in 2014 and 2015 represented the NFC West, and now the Panthers have done it again in conjunction with the Falcons.

3. Concerned that a Falcons victory would be good for the NFC South but bad for the Panthers? It depends on how you look at it.

Yes, if Atlanta triumphs, the Panthers will be the lone NFC South team not to win a Super Bowl, but is it really a fair fight? If Atlanta wins Super Bowl LI, the Falcons will achieve the ultimate goal for the first time at age 51, so to speak. The Saints won it at age 43, and the Buccaneers won it at age 27. The Panthers are age 22.

In terms of age, the Panthers franchise went to the Super Bowl twice in its history before any other division foe even went once. Carolina has been eligible for 22 Super Bowls to date and managed to reach the game in its ninth and 21st seasons of competition. The Falcons have been eligible for all 51 but didn't reach the Super Bowl until their 33rd season, while the Saints reached it in their 43rd season and the Buccaneers reached it in their 27th season. The Panthers and now the Falcons are the franchises in the division to reach two Super Bowls.


Contributor Connor Keith contributed to this report.

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View the top photos from Panthers vs. Falcons by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.

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