The Panthers aren’t technically eliminated from the playoffs yet, and head coach Ron Rivera is still clinging to hope.
On Monday Night Football, the Carolina Panthers slumped along to a 12-9 defeat at home to their division rival New Orleans Saints.
Quarterback Cam Newton, who hardly appears fully healthy, only completed 16 of 29 pass attempts for 131 yards. He didn’t throw a single touchdown, but he threw an interception and was sacked four times as the Panthers lost their sixth straight game to fall to 6-8.
For any logical person, it’s pretty clear as day that Carolina is not going to the playoffs. They haven’t played a good football game in months. Their quarterback is banged up. They aren’t officially eliminated mathematically, but within the realm of reason, they don’t stand much of a chance.
But don’t tell that to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, because he still believes the Panthers could pull off this miracle. That’s why he’s opting not to sit Newton for the team’s final two games, assuming he’s healthy enough to take the field.
“Believe it or not, there’s still a slim glimmer, so we’ll see,” Rivera said, via NFL.com. “Again, we’ll continue to focus in on playing football and we got Atlanta coming to town and all intents and purposes, we play to win.”
Obviously, if the Panthers are still going forward with hope of making the playoffs, Newton is still their best option at quarterback. When he’s healthy and when he’s motivated, he’s one of the NFL’s elite signal callers. Sometimes his attitude is questionable, but skillset wise, he gives Carolina its best chance to win each and every week.
“I believe in Cam so we’ll leave it at that,” Rivera said.
But the Panthers would need A LOT to go right for them over the last two weeks of the season to make the playoffs, and that doesn’t just include them winning their last two games against the Falcons and Saints. They would also need the other teams in the wild card race (Minnesota, Philadelphia, Washington) to completely flame out.
Rivera can keep the faith all he wants, but the fact of the matter is neither he nor Newton are miracle workers, and that’s what it would take to get the Panthers into the playoffs.