We're all aware of the hole the team dug itself into during the first half of the season, now being 4-6 but having won three of their last four contests. They should be 4-0 the past month but for their inability to score a point in the second half against a very dynamic Kansas City Chiefs defense. Things need to come around, and fast, for the Panthers to have any shot at all for a postseason berth.
The good news is that we are also all aware that the Panthers won the NFC South a couple of years ago with a 7-8-1 record. While I wouldn't call that record a "goal" for the team this year, given Ron Rivera's propensity for having the team finishing strong after slow starts, a 10-6 record may very well be good enough to win the division. If not, with so much sub-par play by about 26 of the 32 NFL teams, it means even if the Panthers don't win the division, 9-7 or perhaps even 8-8 just might be good enough for a Wild Card spot, so things aren't done with yet for 2016.
Even at 4-6, Carolina isn't but two games behind current division leader, the Atlanta Falcons. Also of note is the fact that the Falcons started to fade HARD about this time last season. That said, the Panthers can finish with a 3-3 division record at BEST, as they're 1-3 now. If the can beat Atlanta later and Tampa Bay to finish the season, that would do it for Carolina's part.
However, 10-6 at this point seems awfully overly optimistic, but can be done. The upcoming schedule is a BEAR having to play at Oakland, who is making waves in the AFC at 7-2, and an uphill fight against an explosive offensive team that has a pass rusher named Khalil Mack. Mack's one of the best young pass rushers in the business if not the best, period.
Next, it's a game against an old nemesis as the Panthers stay on the road on the West Coast at Seattle. That's a tough game for anyone, and the 'hawks handled the New England Patriots nicely last week.
The Chargers then come to Charlotte with their best team in recent years. They're only 4-6, but won games against Denver and Atlanta, both, and in consecutive weeks, so they're certainly no slouches. Phillip Rivers has put up a borderline Hall of Fame career, so he'll be a handful against Carolina's green, if talented, defensive backfield.
The Panthers wind up the season playing at Washington to reunite with castoff CB Josh Norman before those last two division games against the Falcons and Bucs.
Winning the NFC South for a fourth consecutive season looks to be slim, but is possible. Trying to do it with the last four of six games on the road just stacks the deck against the team that much more.
Let's all pray for our beloved MLB, Luke Kuechly, and that he's healthy, happy, and ready to suit up next week. At least he'll have a few extra days thanks to the Thursday night game to get well.
His presence is sorely needed.
Follow me on Twitter @Ken_Dye