With the Panthers at 11-0 (and one victory away from winning 16 straight regular-season games), they have five left in order to become the second team in league history to go 16-0.
Or, possibly, the third, depending on whether the Patriots finish their Week 17 game undefeated before the Panthers do.
To get there, the Panthers will face four division rivals in the final five weeks. Appearing on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly said that the rest of the regular season won’t be any harder or easier with four NFC South games, but that those games will result in greater “focus.”
The process of focusing starts with a Week 13 trip to New Orleans, for a return match against a Saints team that gave the Panthers all they could handle in Week Three when Drew Brees was out with a shoulder injury. Then comes a visit from the Falcons, who at one point were 5-0 and would love to give Carolina its first loss of the year.
Next up is a trip to New Jersey for a date with the Giants, who know a thing or two about being competitive against unbeaten teams. Then, the Panthers go to Atlanta before finishing the season with a visit from the Buccaneers.
With only the Saints below .500, most of these teams will need to win in order to get to the playoffs. But the prospect of knocking off the Panthers will provide plenty of extra motivation for each and every team that will be facing Carolina.