The Panthers are a little banged up, so they could use some rest. With
a win against Atlanta, they get a week off.
Steve Smith was the critical change last week, with the strained PCL
being the best possible diagnosis for the injured 13th year receiver,
but he'll miss Atlanta. A second straight week of rest would be
fantastic. I'm sure his recently dislocated finger, freshly stitched
for the game Sunday, could take a little time off, too.
As well, Jonathan Stewart's MCL could use that time, and the team could
use Stewart to help bolster the run game. Ends Charles Johnson and Greg
Hardy have had knee issues in the last month, and it's never bad to be
fresh there. Hardy only showed up on the injury report for 11/24, but
still, nice to be at full force.
Tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short haven't really hit the "rookie
wall", but they're 5 more weeks into an NFL season than they'd be in
college. Backup Colin Cole had become a starter recently, playing more
NT with Lotulelei moving to the 3-tech, and is day to day with a calf
injury that could use some rest.
Cam Newton hasn't really shown up on injury reports, but has had the
ankle, foot, and toe injuries to deal with recently. That's a guy who
could use some fresh legs, obviously. And Deangelo Williams has had 191
carries - most since 2009. A 30 year old back with 1531 career touches
can always use a little rest, even if he hadn't been carrying more in
On the dark side of getting rest, strategically, the last three Super
Bowl winners were wild card teams. I don't think that continuous travel
has as much to do with it, honestly. I think the Ravens, Packers, and
Giants individually were teams that got hot at the right time, beat an
easy 3/4 seed, and matched up well with the 1s and 2s. I think some of
that comes in the traditionally stronger 5 seed in a top conference
compared to the teams that barely back into a division win. I don't
think anyone really deserves the playoffs in the NFC North or East,
where the Saints/9ers/Cards are all better teams but one will clearly
not get in.
This year, home field has seemed to matter more for travel and
officiating, so I don't take the advantage lightly. Past history has
nothing to do with what happens individually, you still have to win the
game no matter where it's played. Bank of America stadium was
surprisingly loud this week, and you'd hope more home fans keep seats
than ship them off to waiting visiting fans for a playoff game.