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NFL playoff picture: Here’s a positive spin on the Panthers’ slim playoff hopes

I know most of you felt like the Panthers playoff chances circled the toilet with the loss to the Buccaneers. I agree the odds are against the Panthers winning their four remaining games to create their best opportunity to make the playoffs. They certainly have to play better if they are going to win even one more game. But lets for a moment assume the Panthers do turn things around and win three of their final four games. Would a 9-7 record we good enough this season or is it imperative they win ten games? Of course winning ten games is no guarantee of a playoff spot but again for the purpose of this article let’s assume it is. I’ll revisit this key assumption before I close this piece.

To assess the Panthers’ chances we need to first predict who will win the NFC East. The preference is for Washington to win the division since the Panthers have the tie breaker over the Cowboys and Eagles from beating them in the season opener. Washington beat the Panthers earlier in the season and own the tie breaker over the Panthers. Yet with Washington losing a second quarterback to injury last night I doubt Mark Sanchez can will Washington into the playoffs. Here is their remaining schedule:

That is not a hard schedule really, but again, without a decent quarterback I don’t see them winning more than one game remaining. So let’s assume Washington folds, finishes 7-9 and is out. That leaves the Eagles and Cowboys who play next Sunday in Dallas.

The Eagles have by far the hardest remaining schedule. All four games are against potential playoff teams with three on the road.

I don’t see the Eagles winning more than two games of the four remaining to finish 8-8. That bodes well for the Panthers to get in with just nine wins.

The Cowboys (7-5) are in the drivers seat in the division. If they win next Sunday at home against the Eagles then they have a favorable schedule after that:

The Cowboys are playing well and could run the table and finish 11-5. I’m okay with that really as long as Washington folds by only winning seven games.

The Vikings are also a threat to grab that sixth playoff spot. They aren’t exactly playing well either and their schedule is stout though not as stout as the Eagles.

I see the Vikings winning only two of four games to finish 8-7-1. So that scenario still leaves the door open for a nine-win Panthers team. So what about Seattle? It doesn’t matter. They do have the easiest schedule remaining but hey they are welcome to the No. 5 seed. I don’t care whether we play the Bears or the Cowboys in the first round of the playoffs. But just for gits and shiggles here the Seahawks remaining schedule.

So they only have that Week 16 matchup with the Chiefs to worry about. The Seahawks should finish with at least ten wins. Like I said though, it doesn’t really matter. In fact, we want them to beat the Vikings next Monday night. Panthers fans should prepare to tune in to that one.

So in summary, next week we need the following:

Cowboys beat the Eagles

Seahawks beat the Vikings

Giants beat Washington

Panthers beat the Browns

Think about it, winning cures everything and in this scenario the Panthers are right back in sole possession of the sixth playoff spot. Of course holding it with the Saints coming to Charlotte the following week will be the next test for Ron Rivera and the Panthers. The positive is it at least puts them back to controlling their own destiny. In that there is still hope in spite of the current four game win streak. All it takes is one win to put all that behind them.

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