This is the heart of why Sunday’s win was so important. It proved to the football world this team was for real, but more importantly it showed the players that they were. Athletes wont admit it — they never do — but years of conditioned response likely created a seed of doubt whether this team could get over the hump.
From an outsider perspective this was simply a mid-season win against a good team. But it was an important step in lifting some of the baggage this organization has carried for the better part of 20 years. It’s about instilling faith in fans that have so often had the rug pulled out from under them.
Eyes are back on Carolina for the first time since 2004, and now it’s on Cam Newton and the rest of the team to make good on the promise by closing out the season strong. Playoffs have never been more important to a fan base aching to believe, and this iteration of the Panthers is the team that can do it.
The Panthers have now won four straight games to boost their way into the final wild card spot in the NFC, but their hold on a postseason berth is tenuous at best. The Packers and Bears are close behind and a loss on Sunday could push them out of the picture, at least for this week. The 49ers have a firm hold on the other wild card spot and have a strong shot at catching the Seahawks for the division lead with a win Sunday.
The Cincinnati Bengals travel to Baltimore for an important AFC North game as the Ravens need Joe Flacco to turn the corner and stop their three-game slide if there is any hope for the playoffs in 2017.
Baltimore is reliably poor this season, as the Ravens are 3-5 against the spread in 2017. They’ve beaten teams they shouldn’t and dropped games they should have won — losing to Buffalo, Cleveland and Pittsburgh while each team was at its low point. Cincinnati is far more even-keeled, holding a 5-3-1 record against the spread.