Panthers Still Have A Chance To Clinch Top Seed In Their Conference
The Carolina Panthers have secured a spot in this year's NFL playoffs. But, they now know they have a chance at being the top seed in their conference.
League officials have determined that a Panthers' victory over Atlanta this Sunday along with a San Francisco victory and a Seattle loss would give Carolina home field as long as they remain alive in the postseason. Head Coach Ron Rivera said his message to the team will be to not worry about anyone other than the Falcons.
"If we take care of our business and things fall into place...great," says Rivera. "Nothing but good things can happen if we take care of our business and do the things we're supposed to. And that's what I'll say. As we go forward, yes, I would hope that things can go our way continually. And who knows?"
Carolina will face Atlanta in their regular-season finale most likely without the services of top receiver Steve Smith. He strained a knee ligament in the Panthers' win over New Orleans.
Rivera says Smith will be listed as "doubtful" against the Falcons -- but he won't say Smith is definitely out of action.
"We're going to have to re-evaluate Steve as we go along. The one thing about him is his toughness..his mental toughness... his tenacity. Everyone keeps saying he'll be out. I don't know. A guy like him... Shoot... Who knows? He's one of those guys that can will himself to do something. So, his timetable... Believe me, I'm not going to set one on him, that's for sure," Rivera says.
Win or lose, Carolina will make its first playoff appearance since 2008.