Hello bye week.
Sitting at just 1-4 the Carolina Panthers' season appears to have already slipped away. Panthers fans like me can only sit back, shake our heads, and wonder how such a promising season derailed so quickly.
Bursting the Balloon of Optimism
As a Panthers fan I was definitely guilty of counting my eggs before they hatched.
Before the season I looked at the schedule to do a quick "win or loss" assessment for each upcoming game. I incorrectly assumed the Panthers' offense would significantly improve in Cam Newton's second year while healthy defense would be much better.
I filled my Panthers pre-season balloon with optimism and projected a 3-2 record heading into the bye week.
A Week 1 victory over Tampa Bay seemed inevitable after the Panthers dominated the Bucs in both games last year and Tampa Bay entered the season with a rookie head coach. But the Panthers seemed to sleepwalk through a 16-10 Week 1 loss to the Bucs.
The Panthers' Week 2 35-27 victory over the New Orleans Saints was not surprising with all of the turmoil surrounding the Saints.
A Week 5 home victory over the Seattle Seahawks and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson looked likely. Instead, the Panthers lost 16-12 and failed to score an offensive touchdown.
I was expecting a 3-2 record and Carolina staying competitive in the NFC South.
Instead Carolina is 1-4 and seemingly out of it.
Yes, that loud "pop" was the sound of my optimism balloon bursting.
Sitting at 2-7 After Week 10?
While a 1-4 Panthers' record is bad, a depressing 2-7 record could easily happen. Here is how:
Week 7 vs. Dallas Cowboys - LOSS. The Panthers and Cowboys have each played the New York Giants, Seattle Seahawks, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year. Dallas is 2-1 in these games. Carolina is 0-3. Expect the Panthers to fall to 1-5.
Week 8 vs. Chicago Bears - LOSS. Chicago's defense is allowing 14.2 points per game. The Panthers fall to 1-6.
Week 9 at Washington Redskins - WIN. Washington is 2-3 and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a concussion this week. The Redskins' defense is giving up 29.4 points per game, which is just what the Panthers need to pull out a road victory and "improve" to 2-6.
Week 10 vs. Denver Broncos - LOSS. While the Broncos are just 2-3 their losses have come against perhaps the NFL's three best teams - the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, and New England Patriots. Peyton Manning is steadily improving while Cam Newton is steadily declining. Broncos win.
And with a loss to the Broncos the 2012 Carolina Panthers could realistically slide to 2-7.
Carolina desperately needs to use the bye week to regroup, refocus, and turn around the rest of their crumbling season.
If they fail to do this the rest of the year can be summed up in five words:
"Hello bye week, goodbye season."
Andrew Sweat is a die-hard Panthers fan. For more from this author, visit Andrew's archive or check these out articles: