Monday Morning Thoughts: A Dose of Reality
For the first time in nearly a month, the Carolina Panthers lost. The Chicago Bears ended the Panthers' three-game winning streak this Sunday with a very close 23-16 win.
I'm going to be flat out honest as I always am in this weekly column. The Panthers' offense looked lethargic on Sunday, especially up front. Don't get me wrong, Chicago has one of the best defenses in the entire league and have one of the game's best pass rushers in Khalil Mack, but Teddy Bridgewater couldn't even go through his progressions half of the time because he had a defender breathing down his neck. The offensive line allowed four sacks, six QB hits, and a flurry of pressures on the afternoon. To win games in the National Football League, you have to be able to protect your quarterback and give him a chance to get the ball to his receivers. If Bridgewater wasn't an athletic quarterback, there's a strong chance he gets sacked eight, maybe nine times. The two weeks prior the line didn't allow a single sack and won both games. Now, this group has to identify where it all went wrong and get back on track vs New Orleans.
As for Teddy Bridgewater, well, it's one you'd just like to crumble up and throw away for the most part. He made a couple of nice throws down the field, but his accuracy and touch were off and you could tell that the Bears' defense was showing him a lot of exotic looks that were confusing to pickup on. To me, it seemed like he was thinking more than playing. But again, part of that may be him thinking about a pass rusher about to bury him in the dirt as soon as he calls for the snap. We've seen better from Teddy Bridgewater and I don't believe this is the Teddy Bridgewater we will see on a week to week basis.
The fact of the matter is, this is the same young, inexperienced team that started off the season 0-2. Yes, they caught fire for a bit winning three straight, but this is still a "building" year for Carolina. Is this a true playoff contending team? Maybe, but they have so much room to grow in so many areas before we can legitimately put them in that conversation. The Panthers are going to win some games, but not enough to be taken seriously by folks outside of the Carolinas. Despite a 3-3 start to the season, this is in all likelihood, still a five-six win team. The closer they push themselves to a .500 record, the more it's considered a success for Matt Rhule and his staff for their first season on the helm.
Although I don't buy the Panthers being a playoff team, they can still be in the mix for a wild card spot if they find ways to win some games they have no business being in. For example, this upcoming Sunday vs New Orleans. You beat the Saints and return home to a Falcons team you've already beat, you could be at 5-3 heading into November. So even though the winning streak is over, it's not quite time to panic just yet. And honestly, I don't know that panicking should even be a thing this season. No one is expecting Carolina to be in the playoff picture, so let's just see how this team builds and improves throughout the season.
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