As NFL fans, we embark upon weekly journeys of euphoria or depression dependent upon the success or failure of our favorite team. We rarely delve more deeply into the ramifications of these games other than how they relate to team records and playoff implications. This focus is easily understandable but occasionally a seemingly meaningless game comes along that can have a lasting effect on a team. One such game is looming in the Panther’s future. Let’s pull back the curtains and shine the light of day on an unexpectedly impactful game. I give you…
The Indianapolis Colts are on course to match the Detroit Lions record of futility with a 0 - 16 season. The silver lining for the Colts is the prospect of drafting Andrew Luck, should their record afford them the #1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers are trying to instill in their young team the mindset and awareness needed to finish off opponents once they get a lead. Embedding this new attitude into the Panthers can propel them forward both now and into the future.
The Colts and Panthers should fear their week 12 matchup because a trap is set for both teams. The Colts will be hard-pressed to get a victory this year. No team wants to go through a winless season, regardless of the prize that may await them in the upcoming draft. The Panthers needs to establish a foundation of winning for their players to build upon. I believe the Colts absolute best shot at a victory this year is in this game. Conversely, the Panthers have some reasons to fear that this “should win” game may get away.
Reasons the Colts may win!
1. The Colts should be in prime condition at the end of a month-long home stand: Home cooking and a month of sleeping in their own beds, a bye week, and then the Panthers.
2. The Colts will be fighting desperately for a win: Likely winless after losses to the Falcons (a strong NFC team) and the Jaguars (Jags have an extra week to prepare because they are coming off a bye week).
3. The Colts can institute a game plan tailored to the Panthers: the Colts have their bye week prior to this game.
Reasons the Panthers may lose!
1. The Panthers will be in the middle of 3 scheduled road games: The preceding game is against the tough and physical Detroit Lions. The following game is division foe Tampa Bay which is a traditional rivalry game for the Panthers.
2. The Panther players are only human: The prospect of preparing for and playing a winless team may not be sufficient to have the fires burning brightly.
3. The Panther’s may not field their strongest lineup for this game: With the season’s record precluding any meaningful chance of the playoffs, the coaching staff may use this game as an opportunity to evaluate team personnel not normally playing significant minutes. This is more likely to occur here since the final 5 games of the season are against 4 divisional rivals and a tough road game against the Houston Texans.
What happens should the Panthers defeat the Colts?
There will be lasting effects to both teams should the Panthers defeat the Colts. A Panthers win should boost morale and provoke increased effort from the players as they head into 4 divisional games. Winning games against division foes will absolutely set a positive tone the Panthers can take with them into next season. A Colts loss keeps them on track for drafting Peyton Manning's replacement with the selection of Andrew Luck in the upcoming NFL draft.
On all counts, Panthers versus Colts is a game of much more consequence than generally acknowledged. Personally, I just feel like channeling the late Al Davis and telling the Panthers, “Just win, Baby!”