The Carolina Panthers are 8-0. Let that sink in for a moment. A team that is missing their best wide receiver (Kelvin Benjamin, out for the year with a pre-season knee injury) and a bunch of no names (outside of Luke Kuechly) on defense, and they are 8-0.
I finally have to say it – the Carolina Panthers have earned my respect, and now I think they deserve yours as well.
They haven’t done it in the usual way, but would they have done is that they have taken what might be termed “old-school” football and have done it in such an exciting way, you would never know what you were watching was a version of “ground-and-pound”.
Let’s start with the face of the franchise: quarterback Cam Newton. This guy exudes confidence no matter what happens, like when he’s trying to forget about an ugly fourth quarter interception, like he did this past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.
Here is a guy who has been chastised because of what seems like carrying a perma-smile on his face, but he’s earned it with his play. Now, is he perfect? Hell no, of course not, but whatever it is that his detractors feel he doesn’t do well he more than makes up for with athletic ability that is second to none. He probably won’t beat you dropping back 40 times a game, but he will if he runs right at you and combines that laser like arm with that stampede downhill running style.
Now, let’s move onto the other side of the ball and look at defensive leader LB Luke Kuechly. The 9th pick in the 2012 draft was called “Clark Kent” by NFL Network’s Mike Mayock because of his low key demeanro.
All he’s done is proven to be a defensive force winning AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and NFC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He also was named to the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014. This is a guy or week in and week out, brings his “lunch pail” to work, goes on the field, exudes confidence in a low key manner, but the defense follows him and they would run through walls with him.
OK, you may see this is a team who won the NFC South last season without a winning record. As stated before, this is a team whose main receiving threat, 2nd year WR Kelvin Benjamin, was lost for the year to injury before the opening kickoff in Week 1. This is not a team that is supposed to have a winning record, much less contend for the NFC crown. Yet here they are.
It would be easy to dismiss this early run they’re on as just riding a hot streak, but that would be extremely short-sighted. They’ve beaten division rivals New Orleans and Tampa Bay. They’ve gone into Seattle and faced the 12th Man and came out victorious.
They’ve topped the Eagles, went to overtime to get by the Colts and, this last week, welcomed the team everyone gives a free pass to–the Green Bay Packers–and exposed and emphasized just how imperfect Aaron Rodgers and company really is.
And then they held on for dear life. Because that’s life for these Panthers. They are going to gut it out. They are going to grind games out. You want to expect to be let down. And yet they haven’t. The Carolina Panthers look at tough opponents in the eye and they don’t blink. They run well, pass timely, and play tough defense. How on earth could anyone not like that?
Oh, and that smile on the underestimated QB? It’ll be there until someone gives him a reason not to flash it. Halfway through the schedule, no one’s been able to do it yet. And with the way this team is built and operates, they’ll be a tough out any day of the week.
So there ya have it ladies and gentlemen, your 8-0 Carolina Panthers, a team that does deserve the respect they should be given. If you don’t want to respect them, that’s fine, but do it at your own risk.