By Danny Cox
The Carolina Panthers are sitting at home this week because they ended up winning the NFC South and receiving a first-round bye via the second seed in the playoffs. It is the first time they’ve been in the playoffs since 2008, and that also happened to be the last time they finished a season with a winning record.
Obviously, they’ve got a lot of reason to be proud of themselves, but they have got to make sure that they don’t get too big for even themselves.
Quarterback Cam Newton went on record as saying that he doesn’t care who ends up facing the Panthers in the divisional round of the playoffs. As long as the Panthers are playing their best football, they can beat anyone.
“We have to worry about ourselves first,” Newton said Thursday. “I feel [that] if we are playing at our best, there’s really no team that can stop us.”
Confidence is something that every player in the NFL should have. If you don’t have confidence and faith in yourself and your teammates, there is no reason to even step out onto the field. But there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when you’re being confident, and that step into cockiness needs to be avoided.
Newton is right. When the Panthers are playing their best football, there isn’t a single team in the NFL that can defeat them. Having that confidence is something that can drive them far into the playoffs, but they can’t allow their heads to swell because that is when the mistakes will start to come.
In the second round, the Panthers will face third-seeded Philadelphia Eagles if they defeat the sixth-seeded New Orleans Saints. If the Saints win, the Panthers will face either the San Francisco 49ers (fifth seed) or Green Bay Packers (fourth seed), depending on who wins that game.
Newton said that “We’re going to do the things that has got us to this point, and if we do that, we’ll be all right.”
Again, he’s right.
Head coach Ron Rivera needs to have his boys playing at a top level, playing their type of football, and doing exactly what got them 12 victories this season.
But the Panthers truly need to pay attention to their opponent, no matter which team it may be. They need to focus on the team that will be coming into their house and attempting to knock them from the NFC playoff ranks.
They need to focus on the weaknesses in the 49ers, Packers, or Eagles defense.
They need to know how to get after Colin Kaepernick, Aaron Rodgers, or Nick Foles.
They need to know what tricks may be up the sleeves of Jim Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy, or Chip Kelly.
Have confidence. Be sure of yourselves. Take pride in what you’ve accomplished. But don’t sit back and get ahead of who the Panthers truly are, and don’t underestimate whichever team steps on the field opposite you.
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.