"If we can get through those first three games," say these people, "we've got a nice little run set up for us."
Once the Panthers make it through the San Diego/Chicago/Minnesota gauntlet, so the theory goes, the next eight games (beginning and ending with Atlanta games) are a sandwich they can get fat on.
Not so fast, my friend.
Strength of schedule has never been transferable from one season to the next in the NFL. One or two (or three or four) of last year's patsies will become this year's playoff teams. The Panthers are trying to be one of them. Of course, John Fox is well aware of this aspect of human nature and will use every trick he has to fight it in his locker room.
By the time Atlanta arrives in Bank of America Stadium on September 28, who knows what the Falcons will bring to the table? Same goes for the Chiefs, the Cardinals, the Raiders and the Lions, all of whom appear on the slate before Thanksgiving. One or two of20these teams may turn out to be turkeys, but you can bet two or three will also be surprises.
So take note, Panthers fans. The only thing that will determine your team making the playoffs is how they are playing themselves. The 2003 Super Bowl team, which started 5-0, had to beat the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers in Tampa and the 4-0 Colts in Indianapolis to get there. Then they proceeded to lose to Tennessee at home and at Houston.