Presto Chango: Panthers Turn Awful 2013 Start Into First-Round Playoff Bye

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ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 29: Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 29, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons (Credit, Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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By Danny Cox

For years, the Carolina Panthers have missed the playoffs. In Week 4, the Panthers came off of a bye and got demolished by the Arizona Cardinals 22-6. They were sitting at 1-3, tied for second in the NFC South with the Atlanta Falcons and staring far up at a 4-0 New Orleans Saints team.

Over the course of the next four weeks, things changed drastically:

  • Defeat the Minnesota Vikings 35-10
  • Defeat the St. Louis Rams 30-15
  • Defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-13
  • Defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-10

The Panthers won those four games by an average of 20.5 points. Yes, you read that correctly. An average 20.5 point margin of victory over four premiere NFC teams.

Sure, their only victory of the season before that four-game stretch had been a 38-0 victory over the New York Giants. Big win, but for some reason, each of these just looked that much more impressive.

Week 10 brought the fifth straight win for the Panthers as they squeaked by the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 10-9 out by the bay. After that, it was a four-point win over the New England Patriots in “controversial” fashion followed by wins over the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

In week 14, the eight-game win streak came to an end as the Saints welcomed the Panthers into the Superdome and drubbed them from one end of the field to the other. Perhaps it was an awakening though.

That loss to the Saints was a beat-down that was needed because it made the Panthers realize that they had to put forth even more effort. What they were doing during their eight-game winning streak wasn’t enough, and they knew it.

After losing to New Orleans, the Panthers picked apart the New York Jets, got back at the Saints, and finished out the season by slipping past the Falcons.

Finishing the season 11-1 after starting 1-3 was one of the biggest turn-arounds imaginable, and it brought the Panthers dignity, respect, and a whole lot more.

While they were not expected to even sniff the playoffs this season, the Carolina Panthers proved everyone wrong. Now, they’re enjoying an NFC South title, a first-round bye, and looking forward to seeing who they will face for their first playoff game.

Come the divisional round, the Panthers will end up facing off with the Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, or Philadelphia Eagles. Not only will they face them, but they’ll welcome them into the not-so-friendly confines of the Panthers den.

Carolina is just two games away from the Super Bowl. In their final 12 games of the season, they didn’t even lose two games.

Not too bad for a team that was expected to not be playing at all in January, eh?

For more Carolina Panthers news and updates, visit Carolina Panthers Central.

Danny Cox knows a little something about the NFL, whether it means letting you know what penalty will come from the flag just thrown on the field or quickly spouting off who the Chicago Bears drafted in the first round of the 1987 draft (Jim Harbaugh). He plans on bringing you the best news, previews, recaps, and anything else that may come along with the exciting world of the National Football League. Danny is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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