CHARLOTTE - When the Panthers started the year 1-5, they used this week's opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs, as motivation.
The 2015 Kansas City Chiefs are the only team since 1990 to start 1-5 and make the playoffs.
"I talked about it when we were getting ready for Arizona," Rivera said Monday after the Panthers second-straight win put them at 3-5 halfway through the season. "I said hey it's been done before so don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it."
If the Panthers could put together a similar run over the back half of the season, they still face challenges that would likely prevent them from making the playoffs.
1. THE NFC SOUTH
In 2014 the Panthers started 3-8-1 and still won an abysmal NFC South. Carolina is highly unlikely to win the division this year. The Panthers are currently 2.5 games behind Atlanta, but the Falcons and second-place Saints are playing well enough to win the division, and currently own tiebreakers over the Panthers.
The Panthers would likely have to gain one of the NFC's two wildcard spots.
2. THE REMAINING SCHEDULE
The Panthers have a tough schedule over the second half of the season.
- If the season ended this week, 5 of the Panthers 8 remaining opponents (KC, OAK, SEA, WAS, ATL) would be in the playoffs, and New Orleans and San Diego could push for spots as well.
- The Panthers next 8 opponents have a combined winning percentage of (.593)
- Only 3 of the Panthers first 8 opponents would make the playoffs if the season ended this week (DEN, MIN, ATL) and Denver and Minnesota seem to be fading.
- The combined winning percentage of the Panthers first 8 opponents is just .476.
3. Are the Panthers problems truly fixed?
It's tough to take much away from the Panthers win over the Rams other than the fact that...it was a win.
The Panthers did not run the ball well (2.5 yards per carry) and did not protect Cam Newton (4 sacks, numerous hits). They also did not get much going offensively, putting just one touchdown on the board.
Sure the Rams defense is tough, one of the best in the NFL, but the Panthers will face tough defenses over the back half of the season, and 13 points won't be enough to beat anyone else from here on out.
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