Black & Blue Huddle, Week 14: Panthers hoping to finish season on high note

Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) — The Carolina Panthers’ chances to make the playoffs are virtually slim-to-none.

In the meantime, the team should be looking toward the future, while also finishing this season with a ton of pride — striving to finish on a high note.

The Panthers currently sit at 5-7 and will travel down to Atlanta to take on the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta dismantled Carolina in Week 11 and they will look to rebuild on those efforts.

Everyone knows the elephant in the room is the firing of head coach Ron Rivera. After nine seasons, numerous playoff appearances and one Super Bowl trip, Rivera will likely be on the sidelines for another team next season, or maybe in the booth calling games.

Either way, the firing for the Panthers came at one of the weirdest times, surely for him and Panthers fans alike. Even players were completely thrown off by owner David Tepper’s decision to let Rivera walk with four games remaining.

What will the Panthers do? How will they respond. Interim head coach Perry Fewell has been around the block a few times and is likely trying out to get the interim tag removed.

Based on what Tepper did, it’s unlikely Fewell retains the head coaching job, although a strong ending to the season could help his case. Tepper likely wants his own choice at a head coach and even quarterback, as most new executives want in the NFL.

This Sunday’s game in Atlanta is very winnable from a personnel standpoint. Atlanta has had offensive line struggles all season and Carolina’s solid pass rush should be able to get home on Matt Ryan, should the secondary hold up and do their job on the back end.

What will the Panthers do to stymie all-world wide receiver Julio Jones? Jones doesn’t get in the endzone a ton, but the volume of targets will always be high as long as Matt Ryan is his quarterback. Expect the Panthers to throw a variety of coverages at Ryan to keep him on his toes, forcing him not to make the grave mistake of throwing an interception, or two.

On the other side of the ball, Christian McCaffrey is still having one heck of a season, but struggled some last week against the Washington Redskins. It’s time for McCaffrey to have a good game against a divisional foe, something he hasn’t done much of this season.

Kyle Allen’s main issue is his inability to stop throwing to the other team. If Allen can limit turnovers this week, the Panthers will be in great shape to earn another win.

But if it’s about finishing strong, the Panthers need to play every game like it’s their last. Not just say it in the press conferences, but show it with their play and body language on the field.

Though the playoffs are out of reach, this is a great chance for Carolina to realize they have something to play for — pride. Though intangible, it could take this unit into the future, enabling them to go into next season with less disappointment.

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