Not all games are equal, but wins are.
That was the message Panthers coach Ron Rivera delivered to his team this week heading into Sundays game against Denver, which is led by former Panthers coach John Fox and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
Rivera, who tried to downplay Foxs homecoming earlier in the week, conceded Friday this would be a big win to get.
This is an elite team with an elite quarterback, and a head coach thats had success and had success here. Winnings the most important thing, Rivera said. If this was Tampa, beating them this week is just as important as beating whoever next week.
Beating anybody would be good for the Panthers (2-6), who have won consecutive games just twice in two seasons under Rivera. The Panthers have not had a three-game winning streak since their final three games in 2009 under Fox.
We have an opportunity to win back-to-back games and we did that a couple of times last year, Rivera said. Lets start doing that now and get the momentum going and really, as Ive said, make sure were trending up. This is a type of win that could be a benchmark for you, and players could build off it.
RETURN? NOT ADAMS: Another week, another stint on the inactive list for rookie returner Joe Adams. Rivera said Adams would not be active Sunday, the sixth consecutive game Adams has sat out since fumbling twice in a Week 3 loss to the Giants.
Captain Munnerlyn will handle the punt returns, and Rivera will choose from among receivers David Gettis, Louis Murphy and Armanti Edwards to return kicks.
Munnerlyn is averaging 4.8 yards per punt return, with a long of 20 and no fumbles. Gettis, who was activated this week, averaged 18.1 yards on eight kickoff returns as a rookie in 2010.
INJURY REPORT: Defensive end Antwan Applewhite (hamstring), who has not played since the Dallas game in Week 7, is doubtful. Defensive end Thomas Keiser (elbow) is questionable.
All the other players on the injury report are probable, including fullback Mike Tolbert, who has been cleared after sustaining a concussion last week against the Redskins.
O-LINE STABILITY: Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said early in the week the Panthers might tweak their offensive line. But Rivera said they will start the same line for the third consecutive week, with Jeff Byers remaining at right guard.
The Panthers traded backup tailback Mike Goodson to Oakland in March for offensive tackle Bruce Campbell, who has been inactive for four of eight games. Rivera said Campbells best position is left tackle, where Jordan Gross the franchise leader in career starts is entrenched.
FINED: Two Panthers defenders have been fined by the NFL for hits during the Redskins game. As reported previously, free safety Haruki Nakamura was fined $21,000 for hitting a defenseless receiver Josh Morgan in the head.
Defensive end Greg Hardy was fined $15,750 equal to 3 percent of his salary for striking Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III in the head. Hardy was attempting to knock down a pass on the Redskins first drive when his right hand hit Griffins helmet.
Nakamura struck Morgan with his shoulder on an incomplete pass. Both players said they would appeal the fines.