Goal-line Stand: Panthers getting no respect for 4-0 start; Kam Chancellor deserves to be paid

Updated: October 6, 2015
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From week-to-week, opinions and perspectives across the NFL landscape are bound to change. One week, a team could be the favorite to win their respective division. The next week, they’ve hardly got a shot at making the playoffs. A lot of that is due to it being so early in the season, as we all attempt to make premature predictions. But there are a boatload of interesting storylines that come along with that.

In my weekly column, “Goal-line Stand,” I’ll take a look at four intriguing stories that have suddenly become topics of discussion. This week we focus on the Carolina Panthers‘ 4-0 start, the Denver Broncos‘ stout defense, the weird outcomes during primetime games and Kam Chancellor‘s big play against the Detroit Lions.


First-and-goal: The Panthers are getting no respect for their undefeated start 

I know it’s early, and I know they have a long way to go, but the Panthers are off to an impressive 4-0 start. They are without their top wide receiver in Kelvin Benjamin, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL, and they lost running back DeAngelo Williams to the Pittsburgh Steelers during the offseason. Oh, and not to mention, they’ve been without their best defensive player, Luke Kuechly, since Week 1, as he’s recovering from a concussion.

Nevertheless, they’ve found a way to win games, week in and week out. The four teams they’ve defeated have a combined record of just 4-12, but in the NFL every victory counts. However, they aren’t getting much respect, as many analysts are quick to say they’re the one unbeaten team who they don’t have much faith in. But I beg to differ. They aren’t flashy, but they’re productive. The Panthers play hard-nosed, old-school football. They run it with either Cam Netwon or Jonathan Stewart, they don’t turn the ball over, just three in four games, and they play stingy defense. Just ask Jameis Winston about the Panthers’ defense, as he threw four interceptions Sunday.

They aren’t a dominant team, like the Green Bay Packers or New England Patriots, but they are a team to be reckoned with. Newton is a superstar in the NFL, and he’s a flat-out winner. He’s getting it done with limited weapons, sort of the way he did last season, and he’s one of those do-everything type of quarterbacks. They have a big game against the Seattle Seahawks next week — in Seattle. A victory there may cause the media to pay them more respect.


Second-and-goal: The Broncos continue to win games with their stout defense 

They have the top-ranked defense in the NFL. They have two of the best pass rushers in the game, in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware. They have two of the best cornerbacks in the league, in Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. And they have a playmaker in safety T.J. Ward, who’s also one of the best in the NFL at his position. What does that spell? Well, it means they’ll be tough to beat.

Peyton Manning isn’t the quarterback we came up glorifying anymore, as he’s at an advanced age of 39, but he doesn’t have to be in order for this team to win. The Broncos are 4-0, and they haven’t even played great football, at least offensively they haven’t. The defense on the other hand, has been amazing. Against the Minnesota Vikings Sunday, who had a chance to win the game late in the fourth quarter, Ward flew in and forced Teddy Bridgewater to fumble the ball, which sealed the victory. After the game, Adrian Peterson, who had 81 rushing yards, but 48 on one play, said the Broncos were “hard” to run on. And that’s coming from who many believe is the best running back we’ve witnessed in the last decade.

Ware leads the NFL with 4.5 sacks after four weeks, and he was viewed by many — maybe even his former team, the Dallas Cowboys — to be washed up. The Broncos will be difficult for most teams to defeat. Manning doesn’t have to be a super hero this season, he can simply just go out and — dare I say — “manage” the football game. He’ll still make plays when he needs to, like he has a few times already this season, leading his team on scoring drives late in games, but the team won’t heavily depend on him like they’ve done in the past.


Third-and-goal: Kam Chancellor deserves to be paid; maybe the best safety in the game

He put his pride to the side and decided to play after watching his team go 0-2 without him. But he returned in Week 3, and the Seahawks have now won two straight. He’s the heart and soul of Seattle’s defense, and he makes everyone around him look a lot better. The Seahawks’ secondary struggled without Chancellor out on the field, but they’ve now settled in and starting to look like the defense we saw in the Super Bowl over the last two years.

What does this mean? Well, that he’s valuable and should be paid whatever he’d like. We live in a day-and-age where athletes are getting paid ridiculous amounts of money, and it always feels weird to say someone deserves millions and millions of dollars. But compared to the rest of the league, Chancellor deserves his share. Since his return, the Seahawks have given up just 10 points in two games.

During Monday Night Football against the Lions, Chancellor made the play of the game by punching the ball out of Calvin Johnson‘s hands right at the goal line. There was a questionable call by the referee, as Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright wasn’t penalized for knocking the ball out of the end zone, but it caused us to somewhat overlook the play by Chancellor. How many safeties in the NFL has the strength and skill to make Megatron look more like an action figure? I’ll answer that for you, there aren’t any. Like Michael Bennett said after the game Monday night, “pay the man.”


Fourth-and-goal: Are the primetime lights too bright for some NFL players?

It was a wild week in the NFL, especially during the night games. Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers blew a late-game lead against the Baltimore Ravens by missing two field goals and failing to make plays down the stretch. It was a nationally televised contest that went to overtime. Josh Scobee, the kicker who missed those field goals, was cut by the Steelers due to his pitiful performance.

On Sunday night, Drew Brees and the Saints drove down the field after a Dallas Cowboys touchdown tied the game up at 20. It was a Brees of a drive, if you will, and the Saints were in position to win the ball game with a field goal. But Saints kicker Zach Hocker hit the left upright on a chip-shot 30-yarder, which caused the game to go into overtime. Luckily for the Saints, they won the toss, got the ball back and Brees found C.J. Spiller for an 80-yard touchdown pass to win the game.

Monday night, we all know what happened. Megatron received a pass from Matthew Stafford on a third-and-1 play with less than two minutes remaining. Johnson made a move, and was in position to score before Chancellor knocked the ball out. It was a 10-play, 90-yard drive that ended in a turnover. It was also a play that caused the Lions to drop to 0-4 and weaken their chances of making the playoffs this season.

Teams just don’t seem to play as well under the bright lights, especially kickers. It may be the pressure that’s mounted when it’s a nationally televised game, or it could be “night games” in general. Players have all day to prepare mentally, and it could cause a drop-off in their production once the ball is kicked off.

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