There are only two NFL cities that care if the Carolina Panthers end the regular season 16-0 or, far more importantly, complete a 19-0 Perfect Season. Those cities are Charlotte and Miami. Since I work in one of them, let’s explore:
Do the Panthers, the last unbeaten standing at 11-0, actually have a chance to do what no team has done but the 1972 Dolphins?
Odds say no.
Bovada has the odds against Carolina going 16-0 as the betting favorite at minus-600, and the odds against a 19-0 ending at minus-2,500. ESPN’s Football Power Index computers put the likelihood of even 16-0 at only 17.9 percent, or less than a 1-in-5 chance.
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The reason it could happen: Carolina will be favored to beat all five remaining opponents, whose records are 4-7, 6-5, 5-6, 6-5 and 5-6. The FPI has the Cats favored to win out by these likelihoods: Sunday at Saints (74.4 percent), vs. Falcons (76.2 percent), at Giants (66.7 percent), at Falcons (63.5 percent) and vs. Buccaneers (81.7 percent). Also, for the first time this season, Carolina is now the NFC betting favorite to reach the Super Bowl. It was Green Bay most of the season, then Arizona, until this week.
The reason it likely won’t happen: History. We’ve seen this too much before. Eleven teams before Carolina reached 11-0, and only the 2007 Patriots got to 16-0 before then losing in the Super Bowl. More recently, the 2009 Colts, ’09 Saints and ’11 Packers all got to at least 13-0 before losing.
It’s fine to think it could happen. But the historical weight of 43 years in a row argues it won’t.
▪ All 11 Ravens games have been one-possession results, meaning eight-point margins or less. Another one Sunday at Miami will give Baltimore the most in one season since San Diego’s 12 in 1989.
▪ Blame last week’s Dolphins pass defense for this. Ryan Fitzpatrick became first QB ever to have a four-TD game for four different franchises: Bills, Titans, Texans and now Jets.
▪ Patriots can clinch a seventh straight AFC East title this week, which would tie the all-time division streak set by the L.A. Rams in 1973-79.
▪ Mediocrity reigning? Thirteen of 32 teams are either 6-5 or 5-6, records good enough to be leading the AFC South and NFC East. Makes for intense competition, though. Twenty-one teams are on or within one game of playoff pace. The Panthers, Patriots and Bengals can mathematically clinch this week.
▪ League MVP is now a two-man race based on betting odds, with the Patriots’ Tom Brady at 4-5 and Panthers’ Cam Newton nearly even at 11-10. Nobody else is closer than 12-1.
▪ Alex Smith’s current streak of 283 passes without an interception for the Chiefs is fourth best ever, after Brady (358 in 2010-11), Bernie Kosar (308 in 1990-91) and Bart Starr (294 in 1964-65).
▪ Cardinals’ Larry Fitzgerald (992) figures to be youngest ever to surpass 1,000 career catches, at 32, more than a full year sooner than Andre Johnson.
▪ Viking Adrian Peterson’s 18th career game topping 150 yards rushing trails only Barry Sanders’ 25, Jim Brown’s 22 and Walter Payton’s 20.
▪ Maybe the Dolphins Let Him Go Too Soon Dept.: Karlos Dansby’s sixth interception-return TD for Browns tied for most ever by a linebacker, joining Hall of Famers Bobby Bell and Derrick Brooks.
Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.