The Carolina Panthers head to Kansas City this week to face the Chiefs in a game that has zero implications in 2012, but could play a huge role in how these teams are shaped next season.
Entering the season, both teams carried lofty expectations, as Kansas City looked to build on a 7-9 record, with the hope that Romeo Crennel's leadership would be enough to take them over the hump after taking over mid-season. Meanwhile in Carolina, the Panthers gave themselves a self-imposed goal of the Superbowl, after Pro Bowl Center Ryan Kalil went so far as so guarantee it in a local newspaper.
Twelve weeks later, the wheels have fallen off. The Panthers have fired their GM, fans in Kansas City are screaming for Scott Pioli to be axed, and now both organizations are playing for respectability.
Meet the Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton's 'sophomore slump' has been well publicized in the media, but Carolina's second-year quarterback has shouldered criticism of him with poise. On pace for 3,900 yards and 23 total touchdowns, Newton is still a dangerous weapon, even with some second years struggles in his accuracy.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football, Newton put forth his best game of the season, totaling four touchdowns and throwing for over 300 yards. Carolina's quarterback isn't willing to rest on his laurels, however, saying that he believes his best is yet to come.
Meet the Kansas City Chiefs
Over the last three weeks, running back Jamaal Charles has averaged 22 touches per game, and the decision to lean more on the Chiefs' star has paid dividends. Amassing 325 all-purpose yards, the only area Charles hasn't had success is getting into the end zone, as he's picked up only one touchdown in that span.
From the outside looking in, the decision to lean on Charles is an obvious one, but to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the team has yet to find the mix needed to make the Chiefs' offense successful. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn have thrown for only 143 yards more than Charles has gained on the ground over the last three weeks, prompting questions as to why the team isn't playing to its strengths.
Local Takes: Carolina Panthers
Jaxon from Cat Scratch Reader looked into why Cam Newton looked so much better on Monday night:
Newton looked a lot more confident and make quicker decisions. I don't think its a coincidence that the moment we see Newton making more decisions and when needed changes at the line his performance improves dramatically. Now let's see if we can carry this success forward.
Local Takes: Kansas City Chiefs
Joel Thorman from Arrowhead Pride thinks there's a lot to be worried about when it comes to KC's injury report:
Uh-oh. That'll be two days of missed practice for both of those guys. I don't like seeing the Chiefs D without Tamba Hali. Or two starting offensive linemen. If those three don't practice on Friday, the Chiefs are going to have a big problem.
Follow the Fun
Be sure to check out SB Nation's team blogs, Arrowhead Price and Cat Scratch Reader, for more analysis and highlights from the game.
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Win 8 games this season? I'd settle for just winning a coin toss. 0-12 and counting.— CSR (@CatScratchReadr) November 29, 2012
The Panthers beat a three-win team last week and now move onto a one-win team. This game is more notable because of the NFL Draft order implications. The Chiefs currently hold the top spot. The Panthers aren't far behind with three wins. Other contenders: 2-9 Jaguars, 3-8 Browns, 3-8 Eagles, 3-8 Raiders.
The pick: 24-13, Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are favored by three points, despite being on the road, according to OddsShark.com.