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Week 16 Snaps: Panthers' first loss of season may be just what they needed

Yes, the Panthers' season didn't end in perfection, but that might not necessarily be a bad thing for Ron Rivera's squad. 

Musings, observations and the occasional insight as we recap a wildly unpredictable Week 16 in the NFL.....

• Ron Rivera is going to get his wish. Two weeks ago, after his Carolina Panthers thrashed the visiting Atlanta Falcons 38–0 to improve to 13–0 and clinch a first-round bye, Rivera started getting questions about whether he would rest his players in potentially meaningless late-season games, or keep going in pursuit of the perfect season? Rivera admitted to me that he was torn and hoped to not even be presented with that always messy dilemma.

Me: “You seem like you’re almost hoping there’s something on the line every week, and there aren’t any choices to be made.”

Rivera: “Yes, I do hope every game means something. I really do. That’d be better in my eyes. To have something meaningful to play for every week.”

Conservative game plan dooms Steelers in lackluster loss to Ravens

Viewed from that perspective, I think the Panthers may come out the big winner in the long run for having lost in a sizable upset on Sunday, 20–13 at Atlanta. Yes, the perfect season is gone. But so too is the unnecessary pressure and unhelpful specter of a team with a divided focus, trying to chase both an unblemished record and the biggest prize of all: the franchise’s first Super Bowl ring.