Scott Fowler

If Panthers go to 7-0, breathing room over Falcons increases

The Carolina Panthers didn’t play Sunday, but they still put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the NFC South.

Tampa Bay’s 23-20 overtime upset of Atlanta on Sunday dropped the Falcons to 6-2. That means even if Carolina loses at home on Monday night to Indianapolis, the Panthers will remain in first place.

If the Panthers win, though, they will not only extend the greatest start in team history to 7-0 but will also jump two games ahead of Atlanta in the loss column.

It will likely be rainy at Bank of America Stadium, but that won’t hurt fans’ spirits if the 6-0 Panthers can keep it going against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Night games are always special in Bank of America Stadium – although over the years the results have been very uneven – and for the second time in eight days we’ve all got one to watch.

Like a lot of sports fans, I grew up on “Monday Night Football.”

I remember having to go to bed as a third-grader before the first quarter was over. It was a rite of passage when, as a teenager, I was allowed to stay up and watch the whole game.

MNF still means something. As Cam Newton said a few days ago: “Monday night is a very historic and prestigious night, kind of like set aside for NFL football. I can remember coming home from practice and when you hear the ‘dah-dah-dah-dum,’ that little tone just embellishes what football is all about. Every person who has had that want-to, it kind of puts us all in that little child-like mode and remembering the first time we witnessed Monday Night Football.”

The Colts aren’t playing that well. And Luck is banged up. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported Sunday that Luck suffered multiple fractured ribs earlier this year, as well as the shoulder injury that had been previously documented and forced him to miss two games.

This is hard to believe: Indianapolis was at one point losing 27-0 to New Orleans in its last game. This is harder to believe: Indianapolis leads its division despite a 3-4 record. The AFC South this season is what the NFC South was in 2014.

But as we saw again Sunday, nothing is a sure thing in the NFL. On a Sunday where injuries were breaking out all over the place (Steve Smith among them) and where Drew Brees threw seven touchdown passes in a 52-49 win, there was no telling what would happen.

No telling on Monday night, either. Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico probably aren’t going to make more smoothies in the booth, but almost anything else is possible. For Carolina, that means a chance at 7-0 and a shot at showing a national audience once again what sort of team the Panthers really have.

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