You know how it is when you plug directions into your GPS for a trip. At some point along the way, you will miss a turn or add a stop and the GPS lady will tell you "recalculating...turn left in 100 feet." It's only mid-October but time for some recalculating for a number of NFL teams. Not the least of which is right down Morehead Street from where I sit. The Panthers are (1-4) and not only at the fork in the road, but in danger of getting lost in the countryside if they don't turn around in the next few weeks.
With talk of a Super Bowl prior to the season, the playoffs almost felt like a default plan for the Panthers. But if you use the math of 10 wins as the traditional standard to be promised a playoff spot in most seasons, than the Panthers can only afford two losses the rest of the season. Even to simply finish with a winning record of (9-7), Carolina would have to rally with an (8-3) finish over the final 11 games. Certainly possible, but the odds are getting longer each week that passes without a victory.
The loss of 3-time All-Pro center Ryan Kalil is a significant one. The offensive line was already under-performing and losing the heart and soul of the line will make the turnaround that much more difficult. Kalil not only is one of the best in the league at his position, but had the brass to call for a Super Bowl type season from this team and now won't be available to help make that a possibility. The running game has been struggling in most games and QB Cam Newton is going through some growing pains. The defense is showing improvement, but is not considered to be more than ordinary.
But enough about us. We knew Atlanta would be good, but they are the only undefeated team standing at (6-0). Of course, they are a little fortunate as well with narrow margins over Carolina and four of their six games overall. Also in the NFC South, New Orleans has struggled more than would have been expected at (1-4), but regardless of their coaching situation, the Saints defense is just not very good. The other three divisions in the NFC are wide open, with only the NFC South a runaway with Atlanta holding a 4-win lead on 2nd place Tampa Bay. The usually feeble NFC West boasts three teams with winning records currently.
The entire AFC East is (3-3), so flip a coin or a couple of coins there where the Jets and Patriots in particular are impossible to figure out. Baltimore appears to be the class of the AFC North, but lose Ray Lewis' presence. Despite their first loss, Houston looks like they will runaway with the the AFC South with a well-balanced, talented team. And the AFC West looks like San Diego and Denver will battle it out.
Speaking of the Broncos...in the NFL, six or even eight games is not necessarily a good measuring stick. In 2009, Denver was (6-0) under rookie head coach Josh McDaniels and proceeded to miss the playoffs at (8-8). The 2004 Panthers started (1-7) a year after reaching the Super Bowl. They rallied to finish (7-9) and were not eliminated from the playoff chase until the final game. Long way to go, but definitely some recalculating is needed to reach the destination.