What it means: Two teams without much to play for were meeting. The Panthers (5-9) showed up, and the Chargers packed it in. This bodes really well for coach Ron Rivera keeping his job next season. His team still is playing hard, and it won two games in a row for the first time all season. Owner Jerry Richardson likes Rivera but wants to see the team finish the season with some positive momentum. The Panthers suddenly are playing a lot better, and they have two remaining games against teams with losing records. As long as Carolina plays well in those two games, I see Rivera keeping his job.
The Cam factor: There’s another reason I think Rivera and his coaching staff will stay in place. Second-year quarterback Cam Newton has played well for the past month and a half after starting the season slowly. Newton had another solid game against the Chargers, and that only helps Rivera’s cause. The Panthers have a lot invested in Newton, and keeping continuity on the coaching staff probably would help his development a lot more than starting all over.
Defense continues surge: The Carolina defense was a major problem last year and early this season. But that unit has come on strong in recent weeks. San Diego’s offense might not be what it was in recent years, but the Panthers pretty much shut down quarterback Philip Rivers, and the Chargers had only 164 yards of total offense.
What’s next: The Panthers host the Oakland Raiders next Sunday.