Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Will the Carolina Panthers survive their 1-5 start? Uh, no

After a horrible 1-5 start, the Panthers have won three out of four, capped by Thursday night's 23-20 victory over the Saints.

The run has prompted some talk about a possible late playoff push for the Panthers, who were 15-1 and made the Super Bowl last season.

Despite their 4-6 record, the Panthers have a respectable point differential of minus-2, stand in the top 12 in many computer rankings and have a big-play quarterback in Cam Newton and the league's third-best defense against the run. They are two games out of first place in the NFC South with six to play.

So do they have a chance to make the playoffs?

Not really.

The Upshot's Playoff Simulator has been newly rolled out for the 2016 season. Before Thursday's game, it gave Carolina only a 4 percent chance of making the playoffs. After the big win? Its chance increased, to 5 percent. Fivethirtyeight.com's forecast is slightly more bullish, putting the Panthers' chance at 11 percent.

Four of the Panthers' six remaining games seem winnable: home against the Chargers and Falcons, and away to the Redskins and Bucs. If they sweep those games, the Upshot gives them a 50-50 chance of making the playoffs, a real shot.

But though you can make a case for the Panthers winning any one of those games, it is hard to see them winning all four. The road games in particular look tough.

More serious trouble comes from the other two games, which are the next two on the schedule: visits to the 7-2 Raiders and 6-2-1 Seahawks. Even with a 4-0 sweep of the winnable games, losing both of those would drop the Panthers right back to a 12 percent chance of a playoff berth, at least according to the Upshot model.

The Panthers' problems are compounded by injuries. On Thursday night, the team lost center Ryan Kalil, defensive end Mario Addison and cornerback Leonard Johnson. Most prominently, its star linebacker and leader, Luke Kuechly, left the field in tears with a concussion after taking a hit. Kuechly also suffered a concussion at the beginning of last season.

The Panthers deserve credit for fighting back after their abysmal start. They could, in theory, go 5-1 and run down the division-leading Falcons. But you would not want to bet on it.

Will the Carolina Panthers survive their 1-5 start? Uh, no 11/19/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2016 10:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, New York Times.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Road to Atlanta: Tell us how you really feel, Jimbo

    College

    Topped out

    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 21:  Rashaan Evans #32 of the Alabama Crimson Tide tackles Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) 775042495
  2. Journal: USF gets support on the road

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — Perhaps it was the chance to witness the first USF-Tulane game ever, or an opportunity to frolic in the French Quarter for a weekend. Or both.

    USF running back D'Ernest Johnson (2) stiff-arms Tulane cornerback Parry Nickerson (17) on a run during the second half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH111
  3. Joey Knight's takeaways from USF-Tulane

    College

    1. Saturday's triumph will do little to fortify USF's strength of schedule, but its strength-of-character quotient might have increased. On the road facing an eclectic offense, the Bulls built a huge lead, then made critical plays in the waning moments after some defensive lapses. In short, they survived. Isn't …

    South Florida defensive end Greg Reaves (41) reacts after a defensive stop against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH107
  4. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  5. Lightning journal: Tighter defense fuels hot start

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — See what happens when you keep the crease clean, limit the traffic in front of G Andrei Vasilevskiy and limit Grade A scoring chances?

    Yanni Gourde, right, gets a late first-period goal that follows a big save by Andrei Vasilevskiy.