The Carolina Panthers limp into the bye week with a 5-7 record and have their toughest part of the schedule on deck. Unfortunately, the Panthers lost RB Christian McCaffrey (ankle) and CB Donte Jackson (groin) for the season, making it harder to compete down the stretch.
How will the Panthers finish the 2021 season? Here's my game-by-game prediction of how it will go.
vs Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have had a very odd season. It's hard to imagine that they've won five games considering the way they've played lately. They've lost three of the last four games which includes blowout losses to Dallas and New England. In those two games combined, the Falcons put up a grand total of three points. They took care of business last week defeating the Jaguars 21-14 but this offense is really bad, even worse than Carolina's which is hard to imagine.
at Buffalo Bills
Buffalo has some pretty impressive and convincing wins over Kansas City, New Orleans, Miami, and Washington but has a few head-scratching losses as well (Pittsburgh, Jacksonville, and a blowout loss to Indianapolis). Sitting at 7-4, the Bills need to stack up wins down the stretch to surpass the red-hot New England Patriots in the division standings. Carolina will play them close if their defense shows up but they won't be able to move the ball much on that stifling defense.
vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Earlier in the year, I would have thought the Panthers could split with the Bucs but I don't see that being in play now, even at home. For whatever reason, Carolina has played poorly at home and this is their best chance to knock off the Bucs if they're going to do it. Similar to Buffalo, Tampa is going to need a bunch of wins down the stretch for good playoff positioning despite having the division pretty much in their hands. They won't overlook Carolina.
at New Orleans Saints
The Saints' playoff hopes are on life support. They are making a change at quarterback opting to go with Taysom Hill over Trevor Siemian. Although Hill probably gives them a better chance to win, I think it makes it easier to gameplan for knowing that he won't be used in a bunch of different ways. I've got the Panthers winning on the road, earning the season sweep of the Saints.
at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina could get a win here if Tampa has locked in their seeding for the playoffs and chooses to rest its starters. That said, as jampacked as the NFC is, I don't expect that to be the case. The Bucs are more than likely going to have a chance to increase their positioning heading into the final week of the season. If that is the scenario, Carolina will take their 10th loss of the year.
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