Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Carolina Has Raced Out To Truly Amazing 12-0 Start! So Why Can't They Get Respect?
Carolina barely scraped past the New Orleans Saints this past weekend, although they were ultimately successful in preserving their perfect season. The Panthers are the ninth team in NFL history to start off 12-0.
The other nine teams that have done it? The 1972 Miami Dolphins, who remain the only team in NFL history to have completed the entire season with a perfect record, winning every game. The 1985 Chicago Bears, who went 15-1, then romped through the playoffs in historical fashion, and are often considered the greatest single season team in NFL history. The 1998 Denver Broncos, who were the defending champions, and raced out to a perfect 13-0 start, finishing the season at 14-2 and ultimately getting back to the Super Bowl and defending the championship successfully. The 2005 Indianapolis Colts, who were handed a shocking loss by the eventual Super Bowl champions Steelers in the playoffs. The 2007 New England Patriots, who went all the way to 18-0, only the second team to reach the Super Bowl with an undefeated record, only to lose to the Giants in the final minute of the final quarter. Two teams did it in 2009, the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, and they met in the Super Bowl, with the Saints ultimately winning. Finally, the most recent team to have done it was the 2011 Green Bay Packers, who were shocked in the playoffs by the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
Two of those teams lost their first playoff games - the 2005 Indianapolis Colts and the 2011 Green Bay Packers. Both teams lost to the Cinderella teams of the year, teams that ultimately won the Super Bowl. The remaining six teams all qualified for the Super Bowl at the very least, with four of those teams winning the whole thing.
So, the Panthers look to be in pretty good company, right?
Yet, they hardly seem to get any respect, and it seems that they are expected to fall, to lose, on any given week, despite having put together a very impressive run to start the season. Why are they being so overlooked?
Is it possible that they are not as good as their perfect record suggests? Are they going to follow the vast majority of other 12-0 teams in history, and make it to the Super Bowl? Or will they disappoint everyone and confirm the suspicions of many of their detractors who suggest that they really are not that solid?
I cannot say for sure. From my perspective, they look pretty good, as they continue to flirt with history. Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but I have to think that they have earned what they have gotten so far. They are the first team to already have clinched a division title, and have won some important showdowns at Seattle and against Green Bay. They beat the Colts and the Texans, and one of those teams will surely win the AFC South. And they have beaten the Eagles and the Cowboys, and face the Giants in two weeks. There is a good chance that one of those teams will win the NFC East, and the Panthers will have played all of them (with the outcome in the Giants game still to be determined).
The remaining games for the Carolina Panthers are each winnable games for a team of their quality. They are hosting the Falcons this weekend, then visit the Giants, another meeting against the Falcons in Atlanta, and then they finish up with a home game against the Buccaneers. Will they pursue the undefeated season, like the New England Patriots did in 2007 and, if so, will it prove a distraction, like it did with the Patriots? Or will they instead sit out their starters and essentially pick a game or two to lose, to ease the pressure on them come playoff time, like the Indianapolis Colts did in 2009?
Most importantly, does this team look like Super Bowl championship material, or are they underrated for valid reasons?
Whatever the answers are, they are, at the very least, making things very interesting! I, for one, am intrigued to watch what happens with them!
The Most Underrated 12-0 Team in NFL History by Warren Sharp, Dec 7, 2015: