A season ago, the Carolina Panthers did make the playoffs, but they couldn’t produce a winning record in the NFL online sportsbook odds, falling to the Seahawks after beating the Cardinals. Then, in the preseason, Carolina’s star receiver Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season due to an August injury, giving every prophet of doom something to preach about. At the time, it seemed Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense was destined to slog through a very hard campaign.
A lot had to change this year in order for Carolina to realize its aspirations and give themselves a shot at the National Championship, and in readiness for the Big Game, we trace the Panthers’ steps through the playoffs and why it warrants them to be considered for the Super Bowl 50 win.
Passing the Seahawks Test with Flying NFL Odds Colors
The Panthers, despite finishing the regular season with a league-best 15-1 mark, entered the Divisional Round game against Seattle hearing all about how the Seahawks had owned them in the past and had an unbeatable defense. Come the D-day, Carolina kicked off the game in style, thanks to a mind-blowing 59-yard rumble by running back Jonathan Stewart on the first play from scrimmage. Everything else that followed up after that was Carolina repeatedly punching Seattle in the mouth, both offensively and defensively. By the time we were 18 minutes into the game, the Panthers were emphatically 24-0 up, including 10 non-offensive Carolina points that came from two interceptions off Russell Wilson.
At halftime, the Panthers took a 31-0 halftime lead, underlining their credentials as the most complete team. Newton was razor-sharp in his execution, incorporating tight ends, running backs and receivers into its overall attack, leaving the flat-mouthed Seahawks all dizzied up in the field.
The Panthers didn’t have a great second half, and on hindsight, they probably didn’t need to be great or even good. All they needed was to control the ball well-enough to prevent Wilson from working his improbable comeback. And to their credit, they did so, and unlike the Packers a year before, they recovered an endgame onside kick to lock away the Seahawks completely. In the end, the Panthers secured a forgiving 31-24 victory without any much late-game drama.
This win, primarily attained by Carolina’s passionate and clever execution, wasn’t just about showing Carolina’s offense that stated the game strongly. It was also about Carolina’s smart defense that kept the visitors off balance at crucial moments of the game without melting down under pressure. Outside the 24 points given to Seattle in the second half, it was virtually a perfect show of physicality and brains—two key elements that were reminiscent of the way the Seahawks played two seasons ago in their ascendant run to the Super Bowl.
Newton and Co. Dab on the Cardinals
If the win over the Seahawks was impressive, then the class shown against the Cardinals was utterly out of this world. Forcefully energetic, mechanically efficient, meticulously attentive to detail—the Panthers had—and did—it all against Arizona in one of the most dominant wins ever in the playoffs. Unlike the game against the Seahawks, where the Panthers were criticized for their relaxed second half, this was a pounding that started from start to finish, not dropping the baton at any point in the game.
Newton, flaunting his dual-threat skills, was also able to throw the ball vertically to receivers and tight ends in open space, while also succeeding in short-yardage situations, using his strong legs to carry his way past the goal line without losing control of the pigskin. Going into the half, the Panthers were flying high with a 24-7 lead, showing the same kind of totality that saw them give the Seahawks a savage first-half beatdown a week earlier.
And to gloss what was already a first-half performance that could have easily won the game, the Panthers entered the second half and professionally used over seven minutes of clock to score a field goal on their first possession of the third quarter. This left the Cardinals without much of time and the scoreboard leverage needed to implement a come-back. Then, over the final one and a half quarters of the game, the Panthers we at it again, steamrolling their way up the scoreboard with ruthless fluidity, making the formidable Cardinals team look like a practice squad.
By the time the game was ending, a remarkable 49-15 win for Carolina, it was clear that the Panthers were not only going to be favored hugely in the Super Bowl 50 odds, but also that they most certainly looked the part of being able to win it. Like against Seattle, offensive coordinator Mike Shula’s boys used their deftly-planned offense to pummel a good defensive team, using all of their pass catchers for a dominant showcase that attacked Arizona’s D defense from various angles. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ pass rush predictably feasted on Carson Palmer and his offense, forcing a whopping seven turnovers in the process—four interceptions, two Palmer fumbles and a punt return fumble. This was not the close-vest, error-filled type of win that Denver had over a banged-up New England team, it was the freewheeling demonstration of a first-class football team operating at the height of its powers and knowing it is on the verge of achieving greatness.
Pick Carolina (-6) in Super Bowl 50 Odds and Don’t Look Back
As is glimpsed above, the Panthers dominated all phases of their games with equal parts power and speed, putting away the pesky Seahawks and virtually undressing the Cardinals. So, although Carolina will talk respectfully of its clash against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos, the two imposing playoff wins over Seattle and Arizona shows that the Panthers are well-capable of making Super Bowl 50 look a lot like Super Bowl 48. Yes, the Panthers ruined the chance of a perfect season when they fell to the Atlanta Falcons in week 16, but with one more win in Super Bowl 50, they’ll indeed create a perfect season for this transcendent franchise.