Are Panther Fans Ready to Believe?

Are Panther Fans Ready to Believe?

In making a wild card run?  Winning the NFC South ? Going deep into the playoffs? Stranger things have happened.  I mean if the Panthers can get above .500, the sky's the limit right?

Few Panther fans have thought that far forward, however.  We are still trying to understand this feeling of....well...having something to play for.  While we finished strong last season, it was clear that it was too little too late.  The fans knew it; the players knew it; the coaching staff knew it.  Perhaps that's why they finished strong--no pressure.

Fan commentary in social media indicates a hesitant optimism among Panther fans.  Winning big on Thursday night against the Bucs has uplifted fan spirits, but fans are still afraid of getting burned.

Going back to the six turnover playoff game against the Cardinal's in 2009 turned the ball over a mere seven times.  We thought it can't get any worse, but then he turned it over six times in the season opener the following year.

Then there was the 2-14 season, and the first pick the following year--Cam Newton.  Fans were divide over Cam, many believing we should have drafted Patrick Peterson instead.  Cam exploded on the scene generating national attention and an optimistic fanbase.

The next year, many called for the Panthers to win the division (I was one of them).  Then 2012 happened. We looked terrible.  Cam fell out of favor with the national media as they jumped the bandwagon  over Russell Wilson and RGIII.  The Panthers finished strong, but nothing that created great optimism for Carolina fans.

And then this year happened.  Another terrible start, opening 1-3.  Fans called for Rivera's head, and the Arizona loss suggested we should start looking for a new coaching staff and focus on the draft.

Oh but ripping off  three consecutive wins, even if they were against the league's worst teams, changes things so quickly. Admit it, winning feels good--strange, but good.  You want to feel it again, but you don't want to let yourself once again naively believe in the Panthers.

Here are a few reasons that may help you believe:
  1. Wildcard Within Reach- The Panthers are in the wildcard hunt. If the playoffs started today, we are tied with Detroit and Chicago for the second wild card spot.  The 49ers, who are currently 5-2, would get a bid in the bracket.  Two things are favorable about this situation:  
    •  We are on the uptick and the NFC North is not.  The NFC North is up for grabs between 3 (GB, Chi, Det) teams with winning records.  The Bears lost Cutler.  The Lions are always underachievers, and Green Bay, currently leading the division, is physically falling apart.
    •  We get to play current wildcard leader 49ers.  This is the biggest game for us outside of the two we play against the Saints.  
  2. Rivera May Prove Us Wrong- Panther fans called for Rivera's head after losses to Buffalo and Arizona.  Rivera stayed annoyingly cool, exactly what a head coach of a talented, underperforming team needs to do.  Amidst the panic, he continued to coach up a formidable defense that positions the Panthers for success.
  3. Offense Turning a Corner- Rivera was not the only one feeling the heat.  Both offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterback Cam Newton received criticism. Shula, however, may have just figured out the Cam Newton success formula: establish him as a run threat early.  This has worked, and allowed Cam to flourish as a passer, averaging a 79% pass completion rate in the last three games.
  4. An Emerging Elite Defense- The Panthers defense has been quietly awesome. GM Gettleman looks brilliant for drafting Kwan Short and Star Lotulelei.  Hats of to the quietly successful defensive coordinator, Sean McDermott, who has coached up a stingy defense that allows on average 13 points per game on average.  Even with a young, piecemeal, unsettling secondary, McDermott utilized his strong front seven to mask their vulnerabilities.
The Reason to Believe: The Panthers are starting to believe in themselves.

The fans may not be ready to let their emotional guard down yet, but the Panther players may be.  Winners believe that they are going to win.  The Panthers haven't had a winning mentality for years.  That's why people have advocated for Rivera's firing, questioned Cam Newton's ability, and most apparently the Panthers constant squandering of winnable games. 

But now we are seeing what we have all wanted to be seeing--Cam smiling and Rivera screaming.  It may be becoming safe to BELIEVE.

Comment or retweet if you are starting to BELIEVE

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