When the season began, Panthers radio analyst Jordan Gross thought highly of his former team. He thought that the Panthers would win the NFC South and finish 11-5. Maybe 12-4, if everything went right.
Thirteen games into the season, though, Carolina is yet to taste defeat.
“I certainly didn’t see 13-0 coming,” Gross admitted on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But Cam Newton is really the big difference to me. He’s playing so well. He’s making great decisions with the ball, he’s leading the team, he’s having fun, and really, a lot of the success, in my opinion, should be attributed to him.”
Newton had another MVP-like performance Sunday, going 15-of-21 for 265 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-0 blowout win over Atlanta. Carolina, which clinched a first-round bye, has three games remaining: road games against the Giants and Falcons and a home game against Tampa Bay.
Should the Panthers go for perfection or start resting guys for the playoffs?
“I think there’s two types of football teams,” Gross began. “There’s the analytical, Peyton Manning-type where we’re going to slice you up because of our game-planning and our schemes and the players are maybe more intellectual types. And then there’s the type that the Panthers have. I’m not saying they’re not intellectual, but they go for the jugular. They’re aggressive, they’ll run up the score, they’ll have fun on the sidelines, they’ll celebrate and they enjoy what they’re doing. I think that to take that away from them – pull back the reins a little bit, take your foot off the accelerator – I think that’s a hindrance to this team.
“So if I was Coach Rivera, I would rest the guys like crazy during the week if I could,” Gross continued, “and then I would put them in there and say, ‘We are assassins. We’re going out every week to win.’ The beauty is they already have the bye. They got that locked up. So they know they’re getting a week off in three more games. I would say, ‘Man, let’s make a run. let’s go 16-0, then we’ll have the bye, then we only got to win three more games and we’re Super Bowl champions.’”
The toughest remaining test might actually be the Giants. New York will be operating on short rest, but the game is at home and the Giants have shown the ability to beat – and lose to – pretty much anyone. If the Panthers were to lose to New York, then surely they would rest their starters going forward, right?
Gross isn’t convinced. In fact, he believes the Panthers wouldn’t consider resting their players unless a) they have clinched the 1-seed and b) they have a loss. But even then, Gross isn’t convinced Carolina would do it.
Neither would Gross himself.
“I still wouldn’t rest them,” he said. “I love their attitude, I love their aggressive nature and I wouldn’t pull back at all.”
Kickoff from East Rutherford is Sunday is at 1 p.m. ET.