While one prominent winning streak came to an end in the world of sport this past weekend, another continued in full force with little indication of stopping anytime soon. The Carolina Panthers avoided what the Golden State Warriors could finally not: a blemish on their previously perfect record.
A 38-0 stomping of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday moved Carolina to 13-0 and kept the dream of a flawless season alive. The fan-favourite Panthers are showing no signs of letting up or slowing down, unlike the hated 2007 New England Patriots who had to claw their way in the second half of the schedule to a 16-0 mark.
Cam Newton is slinging lasers with his powerful right arm, while keeping defences honest with the ability to attack with his legs. He’s undoubtedly the MVP at the moment.
Whether or not he deserves it more than Tom Brady, who holds the edge statistically and has his team atop the AFC despite losing receiver after receiver to injury, all while not having as great of a defence at his back, is a fair debate. Just know it won’t matter among those who decide the award if Newton’s side finish undefeated.
With the rhythm Newton and the offence are in, that scenario seems more than plausible. After scoring 39 points per game in the past four weeks, Carolina now have the NFL’s top offence, averaging 31.6 points. Newton, over that span, has 13 touchdowns to just one interception and has had a passer rating of at least 122.1 in three of those contests.
Late-season form isn’t the only difference between these Panthers and the 2007 Patriots. That New England team was vengefully hammering opponents after dealing with the fallout of Spygate, as if to prove that any advantage gained through illegally videotaping signals was miniscule at best.
There were few outside of the Patriots’ fanbase that were rooting for them. That hasn’t been the case with Carolina, who have been darlings in the public eye thanks to their underdog status coming into the year, their lack of controversy and a fun-loving quarterback who always has a smile on his face.
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 15, 2015
It’s completely understandable why a team whose leader hands the football to kids in the stands after touchdowns are very likeable, whereas a team that’s achieved it all with a cold, business-like precision are seen as the enemy.
But really, the only difference between them and the Patriots are that Carolina are interested in is finishing their entire campaign unbeaten with the Lombardi Trophy in hand. Going 16-0 is not good enough.
It’s never wise to look too far ahead in the NFL, but with the only remaining opponents on the Panthers’ schedule being the New York Giants, Atlanta again and finally the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we should be witnessing another attempt at 19-0 in the playoffs.
Such is the likelihood of Carolina winning their next three, it’s weird to imagine a more anticlimactic way to finish the regular season at 16-0. But with as unbeatable as Carolina have looked and the schedule in their favour, the real drama appears to be a month away.
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