Now that the New England Patriots finally lost a game, the last undefeated team standing is also the most unlikely one. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers have empathically stamped their arrival into the NFC's elite with a 15-game winning streak (dating back to last season). And even if they do not win a Super Bowl this year, the organization has built a foundation that is ready to compete for a title over the next half-decade. Most NFL pundits expected the Panthers to be a 10-win team at best, and even then that assessment felt like an exaggeration.
However, Newton has excelled behind a newfound leadership and maturity to go along with an elite defense that is currently ranked in the Top 10 in five major categories. The big question now on everyone's mind is whether or not Carolina can actually go undefeated. The most likely answer is "probably not", but let's take a closer look at figure out when that first loss will come, if it comes at all.
Week 13 : at New Orleans Saints
Last meeting : W 27-22 (9/27/15)
Carolina has four division matchups left during their last five games of the season, and a loss or two almost feels inevitable. The Saints are currently 3-2 at home,. And even though playing in New Orleans doesn't have the advantages that it once did (the team has struggled at home over the last few years), this matchup still feels like an upset waiting to happen. Carolina has been installed as a seven-point favorite heading into this game. And while the team is 9-1 ATS, New Orleans managed to keep a Week 3 matchup against the Panthers within five points. Prediction: possible loss and strong chance of a no cover.
Week 14 : vs Atlanta Falcons, Week 16: at Atlanta
Last meeting : W 34-3 (12/28/14)
Division matchups are always tough in the NFL, and one of these games is probably where Carolina will falter this season. Atlanta has been on a rollercoaster ride of a year after starting out with five straight victories and then losing four straight beginning in Week 8. The Falcons have been solid offensively. And even though quarterback Matt Ryan has struggled through parts of the season, the team is still ranked in the Top 5 in total and passing yards gained. Prediction: Here is another situation where Carolina has a strong chance at losing a game.
Week 15 : at New York Giants
Last meeting : W 38-0 (9/222/13)
New York has a lot of problems on both sides of the ball, but what the team does best is show up big when things matter the most. The Giants took Tom Brady and the New England Patriots to the brink a few weeks ago, and the group continues to show flashes of brilliance from time to time (just find the highlights to Odell Beckham Jr's latest spectacular catch last week against Washington). Carolina will probably have lost a game by this point, but if not then expect the Giants to come in ready to play. Prediction: New York is very inconsistent, and if this game doesn't have much meaning, the team probably won't care too much.
Week 17: vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last meeting : W 37-23 (10/4/15)
Expecting the undefeated Panthers to sweep the season series against the 5-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers isn't asking much. If Carolina is undefeated at this point, then expect Newton and company to complete the 16-0 regular season because there isn't much a young Buccaneers team will able to do. At the moment the team is ranked in 25th in pointed allowed, while Carolina is ranked in the Top 5 in points scored.
If you are looking to wager on a Carolina loss, it will most likely come in the next two weeks against either New Orleans, Atlanta or both. If history has taught us anything, going undefeated is just too difficult of a task. Expect the Panthers to lose a game soon.
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Read more articles by George Monroy
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