I was talking with the Carolina Panthers’ excellent long snapper J.J. Jansen this week. Jansen is a nine-year Carolina veteran who has never missed a game for the Panthers and makes a bad snap about as often as you buy solar eclipse glasses.
Jansen is also a thoughtful guy. He has spent some of his free time (go ahead and insert your favorite long-snapper joke here, for Jansen has heard them all) dreaming up a scenario as to how the Panthers could win a Super Bowl in these playoffs as a No. 5 seed.
“It would go like this,” Jansen told me, “and this is how I’ve been telling the guys we could do it all this week. Dome; dome; home; dome.”
Do you get it? If not, Jansen is happy to explain. Let’s break his dream scenario down. Yes, it’s pretty fantastical, but no more than the year 2017 in general.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Dome: The Panthers would first have to win on the road at New Orleans at 4:40 p.m. on Sunday. This alone would be an enormous feat, given that the Saints have already beaten Carolina with ease twice this season and are playing at home in the raucous Superdome. But if it were to happen, in Jansen’s scenario the Falcons would also eliminate the third-seeded Los Angeles Rams Saturday night.
“I’m not trying to predict anything here,” Jansen said. “I’m just saying this is the route we have to take if we are going to get another game in front of our home fans, which we all would love to have. So that’s why I came up with this.”
Dome: Victories by the Panthers and Falcons the first week would set up the following divisional-round matchups: Atlanta at No. 1 NFC seed Philadelphia on Jan. 13 and Carolina at No. 2 seed Minnesota on Jan. 14 in the Vikings’ domed U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Panthers beat Minnesota in December. Philadelphia has looked shaky ever since Carson Wentz exited with a season-ending knee injury. Jansen’s scenario in this playoff round: Two more victories by the road teams.
“No disrespect to Philadelphia or Minnesota – both very good teams,” Jansen said. “But this is the only way we can get that home game.”
Home: Jansen is right – if Atlanta indeed beat Philadelphia and Carolina beat Minnesota, the Falcons would have to come to Charlotte for the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 21. In case you are incredibly optimistic and want to plan ahead, kickoff is already set for that game – 6:30 p.m.
In other words, the only way the fifth-seeded Panthers could host a playoff game is if the sixth-seeded Falcons to eliminate two higher-seeded teams for them and then let the Panthers take care of the other two higher seeds themselves. And then to make the Super Bowl, the Panthers would also have to beat the Falcons (they split the regular-season series, each winning at home).
“We’d love to get another shot at Atlanta after last week,” Jansen said.
Dome: By Jansen’s logic – and he has an accounting degree from Notre Dame, so he can certainly make things sound logical – the Panthers would at this point have won three consecutive playoff games. They would then swoop into Minneapolis to play under the Vikings’ home dome for the second time in three weeks – this time against the AFC champion.
Carolina would also win the Super Bowl on Feb. 4, of course. This is Jansen’s dream and he’s not about to insert a nightmarish loss at the end.
Who would the AFC opponent be? Jansen doesn’t want to guess. He just wants to keep his dome-heavy dream alive – and of course, the only way to do that is to win.
Scott Fowler: 704-358-5140, @scott_fowler