Unlikely Bronco hero ends Pats schemes and dreams

Well folks, against all odds, the Carolina Panthers are the last remaining unde­feated team in the NFL at 11–0. When we start­ed talking about undefeated teams this year and who had the best chance to complete the perfect season, there were six teams: Denver, New England, Green Bay, Carolina, Cincinna­ti and Atlanta. Everybody expected teams like the Broncos, Patriots and Packers to have these kinds of records, blowing the opposition out of the water and not really playing important football until December and January when seeding really mattered. The other three? Yeah, no one saw these guys coming.

As it turns out, Atlanta was a weird fluke that has pretty much crashed and burned since that stretch. Cincinnati collapsed under the might of JJ Watt, Vince Wilfork, and…I guess Brian Hoyer. But Carolina keeps on marching on into the last month of the regular season and is five games away from being perfect going into the playoffs. This is probably one of the most ex­citing years in Panther history and it should be. They are off to their best start in franchise his­tory behind a rock–solid defense lead by Luke Kuechly and an MVP run by QB Cam Newton.

The best part of all this? The rest of the schedule seems to be pretty in their favor. A game against the Saints (4–7) takes them to the first of two match ups against the Falcons (6–5), after that its at the Giants (5–6) and then back to playing the Falcons, the season ends with a game at home against the Buccaneers (5–6). If three of your four opponents leav­ing with losing records isn’t mouth-watering enough, the one opponent with a winning re­cord is on a four–game losing skid! They won’t celebrate yet, but the Panthers are starting to see the finish line.

Enough on Carolina though. Going into the week there was another undefeated jugger­naut–arguably a better one–in Tom Brady and the Patriots. This team came into the week an­gry as they’ve been all season about Deflate­gate and the hoops they jumped through just to have Brady on the field all season, and they came up against a crippled Denver Broncos. For the past several years, Denver has flown on the wings of Peyton Manning, a player reborn after several neck surgeries. It wasn’t until this year that the quarterback began to show his age, failing to play at the elite level he has delivered throughout his career. Thankfully, Denver has had a tough defense to make up for the failings at QB. However, after the great start, the team dropped two games it should’ve at least competed in. After the losses came the tough news for a franchise built around a great offensive play caller; the man needed a break. The injuries had caught up.

Now, we aren’t saying Manning’s career is over–he’s come back before–but this was enough cause for concern with the Patriots coming to town. The Broncos had no choice but to hand the duties over to the underscore, Brock Osweiler. This was thrilling for the op­position, I mean Brady was so excited he took to Facebook to post a GIF of him riding a Bron­co days before the game. The game all of Amer­ica expected though wasn’t the one we got. The backup QB showed up to bring his team a win. OK, it isn’t an elite stat line but throwing for 270 yards, 1TD, and a pick for a QBR of 72.5 in your second game as a starter in the snow against the best team in the league isn’t half bad. Hey, it was good enough to give them the lead late against the Pats, and it was enough to propel them to the win on the heels of CJ An­derson after a monstrous stand by the defense on the first overtime possession. Instead of the Patriots showing us again how they always get it done, we saw that they are vulnerable, the injuries have caught up to them and even new blood like Osweiler can compete against them. This league is wide-open; that is, until you meet up with Carolina.

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