As the NFL regular season nears its home stretch, there are plenty of topics and storylines to discuss, and PFR’s Community Tailgate is designed to address those stories. What’s the Community Tailgate all about? Well, it’s pretty simple. We’ll highlight one of the top stories going on in the NFL. Then, in the comment section below, we want you to weigh in and let us know what you think.
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Several weeks ago, when we surveyed PFR readers on whether the Patriots and Panthers could go undefeated, the general consensus was that New England had a better shot than Carolina at finishing 16-0. Since then, however, the Pats’ injury issues have caught up to them, and the club has lost consecutive games against the Broncos and Eagles.
The Panthers, on the other hand, continue to roll, surviving a Week 13 scare in New Orleans to sneak past the Saints and run their record to 12-0. With four weeks left in the season, the Panthers still have to play the Falcons, the Giants, the Falcons again, and the Bucs — Carolina should be favored in all four games, but each of those teams are fighting for a playoff spot in the NFC, so wins won’t come easy.
At the same time, the Panthers figure to face an interesting decision within the next couple weeks — do they go all-out in an effort to stay undefeated, or do they dial it back and rest some key players if and when they clinch a first-round bye and the NFC’s No. 1 seed?
Today’s discussion question is a two-parter, then. Will the Panthers run the table to finish with a 16-0 record? And should that even be a priority for the team? We’ve seen clubs in the past take the pedal off the gas with a week or two left in the season and have that decision backfire in the playoffs, when the long layoff for key players results in some rust in the divisional round. On the other hand, head coach Ron Rivera and his staff would likely get ripped by media and fans alike if Cam Newton were to go down with an injury in Week 16 or 17, after Carolina had already clinched home-field advantage.
So what do you think? Should the Panthers try to go 16-0 even if they’ve clinched a No. 1 seed with a couple weeks remaining? If they do go for it, will the Panthers be able to get by the Falcons, Giants, and Bucs to go undefeated? And either way, what sort of postseason outcome do you see for Carolina? Weigh in below with your thoughts!