Six for Sunday: Why losing to the Giants might help the 13-0 Panthers

1. Would a loss actually help 13-0 Carolina? Panthers coach Ron Rivera told me his team can just play it game to game -- and not focus on an undefeated season. The pressure is mounting, whether the Panthers admit it or not, and now they face the Giants on the road.

Back in 1998, I was standing on the sidelines at Giants Stadium when New York beat the undefeated Broncos, who came in at 13-0. A few years later, Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe told me that loss was the best thing to happen to the Broncos because it forced them to refocus and launched their drive to the Super Bowl win.

Of the eight previous teams to start 13-0, six of them made it to the NFL title game, but only three of those six went on to win it all. CBS Sports NFL writer John Breech recently detailed what happened to each of the eight prior teams that started 13-0.

The big matchup this weekend will be Giants receiver Odell Beckham vs. Panthers corner Josh Norman. Beckham has been targeted 272 times in his 25 games with Eli Manning and he is in a six-game streak of 100-plus yards receiving per game. Norman will matchup man-to-man and is widely considered the best corner in the NFL right now.

Cam Newton and the Panthers travel to East Rutherford, N.J., this weekend.  (USATSI)

2. Best coaches aren't always the young ones: Black Monday will be here in three weeks and with two teams already using substitute head coaches, it looks like there will be six to eight openings. And, as usual, the rumors about the young "hot" coordinators will be the lead story when it comes to potential head coaches.

I say don’t lose sight of the over-60 crowd.

The notion that the older coaches don’t relate to the players is nonsense. The concept that it is a "young man’s game" is also a suspect idea. Here’s a look at the over-60 crowd in the NFL right now and it clearly puts a big question mark about the young coaches.

  • Bruce Arians, 63, is a great example of the over 60-crowd and take it from me, the players love him and he has all the vitality any coach would need.
  • Pete Carroll is the second-oldest head coach in the NFL and most wouldn’t believe it the way he runs around. Oh, by the way, he's been to the last two Super Bowls and looking for a third visit.
  • Who goes to the most Super Bowls these days? That would be 63-year-old Bill Belichick.
  • Who coaching has a chance for another division title, as well as two Super Bowl rings? 69-year-old Tom Coughlin, who knows how to keep a team in the hunt -- which he’s doing once again in 2015.
  • John Fox took the Panthers and Broncos to the Super Bowl and now the 60-year-old coach is rebuilding the Bears.
  • Mike Zimmer is going to be 60 this June and he has his Vikings in the playoff picture right now.

3. Playoff hopes in the hands of backups: Teams work so hard to get to the playoffs, and now four teams have all their hopes and dreams in the hands of backup quarterbacks.

Houston battles Indianapolis for the AFC South lead and it means T.J. Yates faces off against third-string Charlie Whitehurst.

The Bengals desperately need to get the second seed and buy an extra week with the bye to get Andy Dalton back, but they need AJ McCarron to win on the road against the 49ers -- which is a tall task for a QB with zero NFL starts.

Finally, Brock Osweiler may be considered a starter by some people, but he marches into Pittsburgh and a win is important if the Broncos want to stay in the race for a No. 1 or 2 seed.

4. The hottest duo in the league: It’s been an unbelievable four-game winning streak for Seattle. The performance of both Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin has been really impressive on a historical basis.

Wilson’s 16 touchdown passes -- and zero over the four weeks -- is second in NFL history to Tom Brady’s 17 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Baldwin’s eight touchdown receptions are tied with Jerry Rice as the all-time best over a four-game period.

Now the Seahawks are home against the Browns. Cleveland has already given up 26 touchdown passes and it could be another big game for the dynamic duo. With the Seahawks running game in a state of flux, I could see the duo coming up with three touchdown connections.

Wilson and Baldwin are eyeing another big weekend. (USATSI)

5. Three-man race for MVP: I am a voter for the Associated Press awards and since the end of September, I narrowed the MVP list to three players: Tom Brady, Cam Newton and Carson Palmer.

I have some late interest in Russell Wilson, but the other three have been on fire all season.

Newton and Palmer are the top two quarterbacks when it comes to touchdown passes per pass attempts with a 1:14 ratio. Brady has the most touchdown passes, with 33, and the most yards (4,138). Between them they have 92 TD passes and just 25 interceptions.

The race is too close to call and it will come down to the last few games. Brady is at home against the Titans, Palmer is on the road against the Eagles and Newton is in New Jersey to face the Giants.

The three opponents they face have given up 80 touchdown passes and, on average, 280 yards passing.

6. Some things to consider in Week 15: The Jets defense has 22 sacks in their last six games, which is the best in the NFL over that time period. And some more: 

  • Blake Bortles has thrown eight touchdown passes in his last two games.
  • Only two teams have been shut out this year: Chicago by the Seahawks, and the Falcons by the Panthers last week. The Bears won the week after they were shut out because pro football professionals are just that … professionals. Dan Quinn told me his team was mad and, of course, embarrassed by the shutout and they will be ready this week against Jacksonville. It doesn’t guarantee a win, but over a five-year period, I found out that 60 percent of the teams that were shut out won the next week.
  • In the Vikings' five losses, Adrian Peterson averaged 14 carries and 49 yards rushing.
  • Last week the Saints finally held an opponent to 17 points and when New Orleans' defense holds teams to under 20 points, Brees is 22-1.

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