Though the 31-13 loss to the Saints on Sunday Night Football was painful to watch for Panther fans it was hardly fatal to their playoff aspirations. An NFC South crown might be slightly out of reach but a wildcard slot is there for the taking if they can just shake off the loss and win their remaining three games. Here's a look at their playoff chances without getting too deep into the tiebreaker scenarios.
Panthers Finish 12-4
The Panthers would lock down the #5 seed but lose the NFC South crown tiebreaker to the Saints (provided the Saints win their two other games) due to the Saints' better conference record: 10-2 vs. 9-3.
The Saints (11-2) remaining games are: @Rams, @ Panthers and Bucs.
Let's pray for a Rams (5-8) upset this weekend. Who knows, the Saints do not play near as well on the road (3-3) and the Rams play a little better at home (3-3).
Panthers Finish 11-5
Now it gets tricky. If the Saints, 49ers and Cardinals all finish 3-0 the Panthers would be out of the playoffs because the Saints (14-2) and 49ers (12-4) would have better records and the Cardinals (11-5) would have the tiebreaker via the head-to-head win. Wow perish that thought huh? So how likely is it? Actually, it's impossible.
49ers (9-4) remaining games: @Bucs, Falcons, @ Cardinals
The fact the Cardinals and 49ers close the season against each other keeps this scenario from being possible. Somebody has to lose there, hopefully the Cardinals though its hard to say what is better for the Panthers at this time.
Okay now I'm feeling a little better since the Cardinals have two very tough games down the stretch including a visit to Seattle. Seems unlikely they run the table, more likely going 2-1 if not 1-2 giving the Panthers a little wiggle room.
Panthers Finish 10-6
If the Panthers should slip up and lose 2 of their final 3 the playoffs is still very possible but they will need help. They will need either the Cardinals or 49ers to lose 2 of their final 3 games, very possible for the Cardinals but not so much for the 49ers. But they would also need for the bevy of 7-6 teams to not creep up and steal the #6 spot by winning out and finishing 10-6. That seems very unlikely given that record will win either of those divisions so we would need two teams in each the North or East to win 10 games. This assumes the Eagles (8-5) win the East given a current one game lead.
I certainly don't see the Cowboys beating the Eagles even at home as bad as they look right now.
Finishing 10-6 is very possible but the Lions are so inconsistent certainly they lose one of those if not two.
Again, very unlikely they win all three though they looked good last night.
So I didn't bother getting into tiebreakers with these guys, not worth my time at this point. But you can see the real worry is the 49ers and Cardinals who play each other to close the season.
Panthers Finish 9-7
I'm not even going to go there...;)