The Panthers have struggled all season, now they get the national stage to show what they are made of.
After going a red hot 13-1 in week 11, I went 2-1 on Thanksgiving day. For the season that makes it 106-57. I'm still in striking distance of .750 for the season.
Let's take a look at week 12.
Minnesota at Chicago - The Vikings are coming off their bye week to face a Bears team that got destroyed last week by the 49ers. The Vikings started off hot but lost several games after Ponder started to turn the ball over. A weeks rest will help AP with his recovery and he'll be fresh to run the ball. If Ponder can manage the game against the Bears defense the Vikings will win this game.
The Bears were embarrassed last week on the national stage. Everyone got to see why Cutler is always so mad at his offensive line, they're terrible. Cutler covers up so many issues on offense it's crazy. Anyone that criticized Cutler for his actions against his line owes him an apology. The poor offensive performance wasn't as shocking at the terrible performance by the defense. They let a second year QB in his first start shred them the entire game. The Bears need to get things together if they want to make any type of a run in the postseason.
I'm going to go with the Vikings figuring that Cutler is out or not 100%.
Oakland at Cincinnati - The Raiders have injuries at several positions and are just a bad team. They need to rebuild this roster and build some a front office that can locate talent and get some solid talent. They have a few positions set, but they have a lot of work to do.
The Bengals are hanging around this season and have a very good chance of making the playoffs. They have a good chance of making it to 10 wins if they play consistent on both sides of the ball.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland - Former Lions QB Charlie Batch will lead the Steelers against the Browns this week. The Steelers signed Plaxico Burress this week giving them a great QB-WR combination, if it was 2001. The Steelers will need to run the ball and protect Batch to give the Steelers any chance of winning.
The Browns played a solid game in Dallas last week, but still found a way to lose. Browns fans can be happy that they were able to compete, maybe next season they'll learn to win some of these close games. I'm still not sold on Weeden and never thought he'd be an NFL QB, even while he was at OSU. We'll see what the new Browns front office decides to do this offseason.
Buffalo at Indianapolis - The Bills won a division game last week but are still not getting solid play at the QB position. CJ Spiller is a legitimate big play RB and is a great find for the team. However, Fitzpatrick is just not cutting it at QB. The Bills are one of many teams that has to reevaluate their QB situation in the offseason.
The Colts came back to earth in a big way last week by getting blown out by New England. Colts fans shouldn't panic, they are on the way up and Brady only has a few seasons left in him. The Colts need to stay focused on their game and keep developing Luck into an elite QB. I expect them to be the last team in the playoffs this year and gain a lot of experience for the future.
Denver at Kansas City - The Broncos continue to cruise through a bad division on their way to the playoffs. Manning needs to focus on getting the offense clicking on all cylinders so they can head into the postseason ready to roll. The AFC will come down to which teams old/bad defense can slow down the explosive offenses in the playoffs. I expect the Broncos and Patriots to face off for the AFC Championship.
The Chiefs are bad and don't have a QB. That sums up their season. If this team had a solid QB, they would be around .500 but still have some issues to address. The experiment of Patriots west has been a complete failure and needs to be dumped as soon as the season is over.
Seattle at Miami - The Seahawks are hanging on to the last playoff spot right now and really need a push down the stretch to stay in. The Saints are probably the biggest threat to catch them is they slip up. Traveling east is always a big deal for the west coast, especially when you're traveling from one end of the country to the other. I like what Seattle does in the running game and on defense, the QB position is still developing with Wilson.
The Dolphins have let their playoff hopes slip away the last few weeks. With their remaining schedule I don't see much chance they'll make the playoffs now. I'm still trying to figure out if Tannehill is a legitimate QB, as of now I'm sticking with my initial evaluation, which is that he is not NFL ready. They need to run Reggie and Thomas and play solid defense against the Seahawks this week.
Miami win, only because they are home.
Atlanta at Tampa Bay - Matt Ryan played a ridiculously bad game last week. With 5 INT's I don't know how they won. I was actually impressed by the fact that they did not roll over and let this one get away from them. This win may be the biggest key to them winning the Super Bowl. They now know that they can win these types of games and maybe it gives them confidence for the postseason. They'll get a first round bye, they need to use the remaining weeks to get sharp for the playoffs.
The Bucs are hanging around trying to slip into the playoffs. They are playing tough but I don't see how they make the playoffs with their remaining schedule.
Tennessee at Jacksonville - The Titans are having an up and down season, corresponding directly with their QB play. They need to focus on finding out if Locker is their QB of the future and go forward with him or move on. They are finally getting CJ involved which is great for them, and my fantasy team. Their remaining schedule is too difficult for them to make the playoffs this year but they should make it to 8 wins.
Jacksonville exploded last week on offense and took the Texans to overtime. I've not been a Gabbert fan since he entered the NFL and his young career may be over in Jacksonville before it ever got started. Chad Henne stepped in and showed that he can play QB in this league. He may not start in Jacksonville next year but that one performance may have landed him a starting job somewhere next season.
Baltimore at San Diego - The Ravens won a tough game against their biggest rival last week. Even with Leftwich at QB you knew this was going to be a battle. The Ravens have to get Flaccos back to the early season production he gave them if they have any hope of going deep in the playoffs. They have a very tough schedule the rest of the way and it'll be interesting to see if they can keep the #2 seed away from the Broncos. I expect the Broncos to overtake them and get the first round bye. If Flacco can't get more production out of the offense they will not go far in the postseason. Whatever happens I don't see them getting past NE or Denver.
The Chargers are spiraling out of control. Norv Turner should start packing up his office now. I think Rivers should get out of town and start over somewhere new but I just don't see that happening. This organization needs to revamp everything from the top down, including every position on the roster.
St. Louis at Arizona - The Rams followed-up a battling the 49ers to a tie with losing at home to the Jets. This team has been up and down all season losing close games, winning close game and getting blown out. They are very inconsistent. At what point do they start to question Sam Bradford's ability to play QB? I'm not saying it's this season, but I think he gets one more to prove he can play QB. It doesn't help that Amendola can't stay on the field. He has to be one of the most injury prone players in NFL history. I like where Fisher is taking things in St. Louis but it's going to take him a few years to get things in place.
The Cardinals lack one thing to make them a playoff contender, solid QB play. This team has to dump both of the QB's on their roster and figure something else out next season. If they have two average QB's, they don't have one.
San Francisco at New Orleans - The 49ers played outstanding with their back-up QB last week against a great Bears defense. They showed that the 49ers are a solid team at every position and that Kaepernick can play QB. I'm sure Harbaugh knew exactly what he was going to get out of the back-up last week and couldn't wait to replace Smith with the exciting young player. I think Smith is a solid starter but he's at his ceiling. Kaepernick has the potential to be very special.
The Saints seem to have things on track this season and are rolling. Their offense is putting up crazy numbers and covering for a bad defense. They are making a run at the playoffs and have a very good chance to sneak in this season. However, even if they make it in they do not have the defense to handle San Francisco or Atlanta's offense.
Green Bay at NY Giants - This is a match-up of two teams that entered the season with high expectations. The Giants started off hot and have cooled lately while the Packers struggled out of the gate but have things on track now. Rodgers is chucking the ball all over the field and they're getting enough out of their defense to win games. With Chicago struggling, the Packers have a shot to win the division.
The Giants are still leading what is turning out to be a bad NFC east. They should be able to hold off the Redskins and win the division. They have the talent on both sides to go deep in the playoffs, they just need to get things on track. I expect Eli and the offense to have things back together coming off the bye week.
Giants win in a shootout.
Carolina at Philadelphia - This is a Monday Night match-up that ESPN would like to flex. The only good thing about this game is that Philadelphia crowd will give ESPN a lot to talk about. I expect them to cut to the crowd and talk about all the booing throughout the game. This match-up of a rookie QB against a disappointing Panthers team is a sad game to watch. Reid is losing control in Phili and his team is just terrible right now. Cam and the Panthers are falling apart and there will be a lot of changed in Charlotte next season.
This is a match-up of two coaches that'll be gone and two teams that will look very different next season.
Panthers win, but this is a dumpster fire.