The Carolina Panthers last hosted a divisional playoff game as the top seed in 2008 and were blown off the field by the Arizona Cardinals, 33-13. The greatest Panthers quarterback not named Cam Newton, Jake Delhomme, threw 5 interceptions to 5 different Cardinal defenders and lost a fumble. Many fans were left debating Delhomme’s intentions that night, as his performance was epically atrocious.

The Panthers have earned a 1st-round bye and will have a shot at redemption as they will host another divisional playoff game this season. In fact, they can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the New York Giants on Sunday and a loss by the Arizona Cardinals.

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But is that enough? Will the season be a success if the Panthers lose their first playoff game? How about a loss in the NFC championship or the Super Bowl? Do they have to win it all to solidify the season?

Consider how incredibly difficult it is to get home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, much less hoist the Lombardi trophy. And because injuries so often derail seasons (see Baltimore Ravens), no team has a standing reservation for the Super Bowl.

Because there are no future guarantees, I believe the Carolina Panthers have to win the Super Bowl to validate this season. They lead the league in scoring, point differential, turnover margin, and defensive touchdowns. Cam Newton is a leading candidate for NFL MVP. Ted Ginn Jr. is catching touchdown passes, albeit sporadically. And one could argue Luke Kuechly or Josh Norman for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
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It’s a rarity when a team puts it together the way that Carolina has this season. And while the season wouldn’t be a complete bust if they don’t win the Super Bowl, you have to admit that it would register at least a Keary Colbert on the letdown scale. Right?

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