Steve Smith believed in the Carolina Panthers back in September when seemingly no one else did.
The Panthers lost their season opener at home 12-7 to the Seattle Seahawks in a game they held a lead in the fourth quarter. It appeared as just another instance of the Panthers being unable to seal the deal and win a game they likely should have won.
But Smith was confident about his team’s chances this season.
“I stand on this: I think we’re going to see them again deep in January,” Smith said, via David Newton of ESPN.com. “If we continue to play like we’re playing, eliminate some of the penalties, eliminate some of the mistakes … for us to have played that team that is considered by all accounts the best team in the NFL … if that’s the best team, we came down to the [final minutes] and it was a well-fought game.”
Of course, the only way Seattle and Carolina would play again would be in the playoffs.The Seahawks have lived up to the billing as the best team in the league through 13 weeks. As Smith believed, so have the Panthers.
“Yeah. This old dude may know some things, huh?” Smith said, via Newton.
“I’ve been on some sorry teams, and I didn’t believe we were a sorry team,” he said. “So just because we lost, I wasn’t going to listen to people tell us how bad we were and this is the same old Panthers.”
Carolina has won eight straight games and is tied with the New Orleans Saints for the lead in the NFC South. Carolina and New Orleans will play twice over the next three weeks in games that will likely determine the division winner and second-seed for the NFC playoffs.
If Smith’s prediction completely plays out, Seattle and Carolina may mind themselves playing again in the NFC Championship – a rematch of the 2005 title game – with a berth to the Super Bowl on the line.