The 5-8 Panthers defeated the 7-6 Seattle Seahawks 30-24 in an NFC matchup. The Carolina Panthers are riding a wave under interim head coach Steve Wilks. Carolina has a shot at sneaking into the playoffs if they win out or if the Bucs continue to lose games. Under the coaching of Matt Rhule, the team couldn’t garnish wins, but Wilks has changed the course of the Panthers’ season.
The Panthers Defense Are Elite
In Week 14, the Panthers showed up and continued their final play as the defense routed Seattle’s solid offensive play. Steve Wilks has transformed the fortress into a genuine contender in the NFC South. There’s a definite chance that the Panthers could win the division, only one game behind first place.
Jeremy Chinn managed to have his best performance since returning from injured reserve in Week 14 against the Seahawks. Chinn’s presence in the backfield has given the Panthers’ defense the massive boost the team needs.
Although Chinn has the talent of being a hybrid linebacker/safety role, he’s better at the linebacker position. He covers the ball better at the linebacker position and makes things happen. Chinn exploits offenses at the linebacker spot. He remains to be versatile and an immovable force against the run. If the Panthers want to make a statement in the next four games, the universal safety will have to be clicking on all cylinders.
Jaycee Horn is a stud. Per PFF, Horn has allowed 204 yards allowed (fewest), zero touchdowns, and a 35.8 passer rating (lowest) to opposing quarterbacks. Horn had a massive game, exposing a red-hot Geno Smith following an interception, six tackles, and two defended passes. The cornerback now has three picks in the campaign.
A Bearded Darnold Has Come Alive
The Panthers started the season 1-5 with Baker Mayfield under center. With Baker falling down the depth chart, which ultimately led to him demanding his release, the Panthers have won two games with Sam Darnold as the starting quarterback. If Darnold wants to prove that he can be the future of the Panthers, he will have to involve his No. 1 receiver, DJ Moore.
In Week 12, the two connected for 103 yards and a touchdown. However, in the matchup against the Seahawks, DJ Moore had a relatively quiet game, resulting in three targets for zero yards. Sam is ranked 22nd amongst other quarterbacks in the league.
Sam Darnold looks comfortable with being the starting behind a stacked offensive that’s “the strength of the team,” however, the Panthers are showcasing that they have many strengths, such as the O-line, defense, and the running back position.
Keep Pounding With Hubbard & Crew
The running back position has been one of the strengths for the Panthers this season. Chuba Hubbard exploded in the Panthers’ victory over the Seahawks. Hubbard had 99 yards of offense on 14 attempts for 74 rushing yards, three catches for 25 receiving yards, and one touchdown. He has proven that he has the hot hand going down the stretch.
However, Carolina should keep utilizing all three of their running backs if they want to win in Week 15 against the Steelers’ defense that’s seemingly starting to crumble. They could take advantage of the Steelers, ranked 15th against the run. In their last three matchups, Pittsburgh has allowed at least 110 yards on the ground; Chuba Hubbard, D’Onta Foreman, and Raheem Blackshear could have a feast in their next matchup.
The Toss-Up Saga Continues
The toss-up in the NFC South continues. The Bucs lead the pack one game ahead of the Panthers and the Falcons. The Saints are two games behind in the division. No one wants to win the division. Carolina has the most manageable schedule amongst the other teams in the division, so it’s up to them to see if they have what it takes in this four-game stretch late in the season.