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.
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.
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?