Let’s try this again.
The last time the Carolina Panthers faced one of the NFL’s elite teams — two weeks ago at the San Francisco 49ers — they flopped. Fell on their faces. However you want to say it. It was a disaster.
But what made that loss even more embarrassing, other than it being a 51-13 thrashing?
That going into that game, the Panthers went on and on and on about it being a “measuring-stick” kind of contest.
And it was… just, not the way Carolina would’ve hoped.
To Rivera and his team’s credit, they didn’t let the bad aftertaste from that blowout linger for long. Sunday’s 30-20 win over Tennessee ensured there would be no Pittsburgh 2.0, no breaking point that spiraled this season like what happened in 2018. Instead, it nicely set the table for another “measuring-stick” contest, this time against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
So what happens this time?
That much only time will tell. It’s possible that quarterback Aaron Rodgers catches fire and eviscerates the Panthers secondary … and it’s also possible Carolina’s pass-rush stifles Rodgers en route to a statement win.
Really, that’s what a victory over Green Bay would be: A statement.
And it couldn’t come at a better time.
At 5-3, the Panthers are in a particular grouping of teams: Good-not-great ones. Carolina has one nice win over Houston, but other than that? The Buccaneers, Jaguars, Cardinals and Titans all have losing records. Realistically, none of them will make the playoffs.
Carolina has taken care of business, mostly, against less-talented teams. But beating the Packers, that’s a different story. Green Bay is a legitimate Super Bowl contender, with a Hall of Fame quarterback and a blossoming run game. Defeating them on the road would instantly be not just the Panthers’ best win this season, but it would be one of the more impressive wins in the entire league.
Of course, that’s if the Panthers win. If they lose, no matter how, it cements them in that middling tier of wannabe contenders.
One way or another, Sunday’s game will tell us a lot about what to expect from the second half of this Panthers’ season — and whether to start planning vacations for January or not.
— Brendan Marks
Panthers at Packers
- Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisc.
- 4:25 p.m. Sunday
- TV: Fox. Radio: 1110 AM
Panthers injury report as of Thursday afternoon:
Did note participate: James Bradberry (groin), Vernon Butler (back), Greg Little (concussion).
Limited participation: Christian McCaffrey (knee), Gerald McCoy (knee).
Full participation: Kyle Allen (right shoulder), Mario Addison (non-injury related), Brian Burns (wrist), Christian Miller (ankle), Shaq Thompson (ankle), Eric Reid (ankle), Curtis Samuel (hamstring).