The Carolina Panthers have started the season with two consecutive successes after dominating New Orleans last week. I am trying to remember if I have ever written or said that the Panthers dominated the Saints before. I kind of doubt it.
Anyway, Carolina is off to a 2-0 start heading into tonight’s Thursday Night Football game against the Houston Texans. It is a National TV game and it has led to the Panthers garnering national attention.
After the team’s season opening victory over the New York Jets, Carolina held a No. 24 average power ranking according to media outlets. The win over New Orleans led to Pro Football Weekly ranking the Panthers seventh in the NFL. Welcome to the topsy-turvy world of NFL football.
It is true that Carolina has opened many eyes. I have read multiple stories about the Panthers this week. Most credit the improved play of new quarterback Sam Darnold as the primary reason.
Yes, Darold has played well and has made few mistakes. Actually he only has turned the ball over one time while throwing three touchdowns. The offensive line is protecting him and Carolina is displaying a balanced offense while Darnold is completing close to 70% of his passes thus far. Christian McCaffrey is back and is healthy. That, alone, improves any offense.
What has really stood out thus far is the defense. Shaq Thompson is becoming a star in front of our eyes. He and the defensive front continually are pressuring opposing quarterbacks into mistakes.
Second year head coach Matt Rhule is known as a program-builder and he is well on his way to rebuilding the Panthers. The team you see on the field is a very young team and you should expect weekly improvement.
College Football Playoff Berths Available?
I do not know about you, but I actually think there is a chance, a slight chance anyway, that we may see a few new schools in this season’s College Football Playoffs.
Clemson and Oklahoma look ordinary all of a sudden. Notre Dame looks less than ordinary. Heck, Alabama even looked human last week versus Florida. For the first time in years, there doesn’t appear to be a clear elite group of programs. It is wide open.
If ever there was a season for a non-Power Five school to break into the College Football Playoff, this is it. A school like Cincinnati for instance. The Bearcats, ranked eighth in the latest Associated Press poll, beat quality Big Ten foe Indiana on the road. In two weeks, it goes to South Bend, Ind., to face 12th-ranked Notre Dame. A win there should put Cincy in the mix as long as they remain undefeated.
Oklahoma struggled to get past winless Tulane and mediocre at best Nebraska at home. Ohio State lost to Oregon and couldn’t put AAC also-ran Tulsa away until the fourth quarter on Saturday. Clemson has a high-caliber loss to Georgia, but barely got below average Georgia Tech at home. Even Alabama was fighting for survival on Saturday against Florida.
A change of pace is just what college football needed. The door is open. The programs we’re used to sitting atop the rankings clearly aren’t the same.