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Panthers Watch 2009: Delhomme and Panthers take care of business

For continued discussion of the afternoon games, including the Cardinals-Seahawks matchup, head to our game day thread.

Since the 49ers are off today, we're posting the Panthers Watch recap a bit earlier in the day.  For those wondering what's up with this, the 49ers hold Carolina's 2010 first round pick, so we're keeping track of every Panthers game and subsequent effect on the status of that pick.  After an ugly 0-3 start, the Panthers have really bounced back, going 4-2 since their Week 4 bye.

Week 10 - vs. Atlanta Falcons
Carolina jumped out quickly on the Falcons, rolling to a 14-3 lead.  Michael Turner went down with a sprained ankle (from which he never returned) and Carolina seemed to be in good shape to pull out a somewhat surprisingly easy victory.  Atlanta hung close though, and at one point had cut the lead to and had driven deep into Atlanta territory.  However, Jason Elam shanked a 34-yard field goal attempt and the Falcons never recovered.  Matt Ryan really struggled, finishing 22/41 for 224 yards 1 TD and an interception.  Not awful, but he definitely struggled.

For the Panthers, just about everything worked out for them.  The rushing game continued to excel for Carolina with Stewart/Williams combining for 174 yards on 30 carries.  More impressive was a very solid showing by Jake Delhomme, who finished 15/24 for 195 yards and a touchdown.  If Delhomme can consistently put those kind of games together, it would be huge for the Panthers (and of course bad news for the 49ers).  Combine that with a very solid defensive showing, and the Panthers suddenly are on a bit of a roll.

We look forward after the jump...

Week 11 - vs. Miami Dolphins
Panthers Watch 2009 goes national, as the Panthers host the Miami Dolphins this Thursday on the NFL Network.  Miami had a dog-fight this week against the resurgent Tampa Bay Buccaneers and will be in for a tough fight in Carolina.  What is most intriguing for the Panthers (and obviously the 49ers as well), is if the Eagles lose to the Chargers, the two wildcard teams will be 5-4.  With the Panthers and 49ers at 4-5, suddenly a wildcard spot is not out of the realm of possibility.

A couple weeks ago, the Panthers seemed to be stumbling along and there seemed to be no easy stretch of the schedule.  Given how some teams have been playing, these next three games don't look quite as daunting for the Panthers.  They're certainly not gimmes, but vs. Miami, @ the Jets and versus Tampa Bay are not exactly the toughest matchups they could be facing.  They close with a 4-game murderer's row (@ NE, vs. Minn, @ NYG, vs. NO), but they could still be 7-5 heading into that final quarter of the season.  They could get knocked off before then, but it will be tough in the coming weeks.