It is tempting to dismiss this Carolina Panthers season as a lost cause. If you take the view from 30,000 feet, that’s certainly what this 3-6 team looks like.
But the view from sea level can be a lot different, and that’s what Panthers fans should concentrate on during a night like Thursday night’s home game against New Orleans (8:25 p.m. kickoff). Appreciate an evening like this for the prime-time, full-of-promise showcase that it is – nothing more, nothing less.
A game like this is like a concert, with Carolina’s Cam Newton and New Orleans’ Drew Brees as the veteran frontmen intent on giving you a good time.
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No, you’re not going to get backstage. Yes, you still have to go to work the next day. No, it might not be the 100 percent, completely perfect night that you hope.
But the music is good, and both the Panthers and Saints have a lot of rhythm, and it’s still going to be pretty darn fun.
The Panthers came all the way back from 21-0 down against New Orleans a month ago, but lost 41-38 on a 52-yard field goal by Wil Lutz.
Newton said this week that at some level, all NFL players are entertainers. He’s right. The NFL is not just a sport. It’s a spectator sport.
And no matter how many flags overzealous officials throw for excessive celebrations, it’s still also show business – with the emphasis on the word “show.” I don’t want NFL players to tell me what they’re going to do; I want them to show me how they actually do it.
And Thursday, at the very least, should be a show.
There’s always the chance for magic, too – not the sustained Panthers magic of 2015, but something more contained into a single night. It sometimes happens in sports when you get great performers together.
Not ‘blind to the situation’
On the 76th and final victory of his NASCAR career, Dale Earnhardt roared from 18th place to first in the final five laps at Talladega. Earnhardt didn’t win the championship that season, but the Talladega performance itself remains legendary.
So don’t see this game as a link in the chain, Panthers fans, because guess what? That chain is just about snapped in two already.
Did you know more than 200 NFL teams have started 1-5 since 1970, as the Panthers did this season?
You know how many 1-5 teams have made the playoffs in the past 46 years? Two – the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals and the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs. That’s it. That basically means the Panthers have a 99 percent chance of not making the postseason.
To put it more starkly, of the 16 teams in the NFC, 13 have a better record than Carolina. Even a 7-0 run through the final seven games wouldn’t guarantee a playoff slot.
Said Panthers safety Kurt Coleman this week: ‘I’m not going to be blind to the situation. Even at 10-6, there’s a shot that we won’t get in. But all we can control is our destiny, what we can control. ... Every week we have to go 1-0.”
7-0? It’s not going to happen
The Panthers almost certainly won’t go 7-0 the rest of the way. A 3-6 team is 3-6 for a lot of reasons, and it’s not going to rattle off seven wins in a row. Carolina’s season will almost certainly end on Jan. 1 at Tampa Bay in its last regular-season game.
So this Panthers season, as a whole, is ultimately destined for failure.
But Thursday night?
That’s another thing entirely. That could be a smash. Enjoy it for what it’s worth, and don’t think about tomorrow for awhile.