Remaining Games: vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Cleveland, at Atlanta
Notes: If the Panthers hope to make the playoffs, they are pretty much going to have to win out. It is hard to imagine a scenario that would benefit the Panthers if they aren’t 7-8-1 at the end of the season. The schedule seems to set up in their favor though with two home games and then on the road at Atlanta, which is the game that could decide the division winner.
The biggest wild card right now is the health of Cam Newton and when, or if, he will be available at any point over the final three weeks. The emergence of Jonathan Stewart recently could be more important than ever to take pressure off Derek Anderson if he is asked to be the starter the rest of the season.
Panthers' Best Case Scenario: vs. Tampa Bay (W), vs. Cleveland (W), at Atlanta (W)
Final Record: 7-8-1
Remaining Games: vs. Pittsburgh, at New Orleans, vs. Carolina
Notes: Similar to the Panthers, the Atlanta Falcons have two home games over their final three games but face arguably the best team of any of the three teams vying for the NFC South division crown. The Pittsburgh Steelers have been very up and down this year and it will be interesting to see which team shows up on Sunday. Will it be the team that beat the Bengals and Ravens this year by 20+ points? Or will it be the team that lost to the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Bucs?
The Atlanta Falcons holds the edge over the other two teams and if they win out, they are in. However, if both teams win their next two games the winner of the Week 17 matchup would win the division.
Panthers' Best Case Scenario: vs. Pittsburgh (L), at New Orleans (W), vs. Carolina (L)
Final Record: 6-10
Remaining Games: at Chicago, vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay
Notes: The New Orleans Saints will have to go on the road for two of their final three games but with the way they have struggled at home, this could really benefit the Saints. The Saints have lost four straight games at home, most recently to the Panthers by 31 points. Their playoff hopes hinge solely on the arm of Drew Brees and if he can play at an MVP level, the Saints will have a chance. If he can’t, like last week against Carolina, the Saints will struggle down the stretch.
While it would be the Panthers best case scenario for the Saints to lose out, if the Panthers win out the Saints would need to lose only one to give the division to the Panthers.
Panthers' Best Case Scenario: at Chicago (L), vs. Atlanta (L), at Tampa Bay (L)
Final Record: 5-11