The Carolina Panthers made quick work of the Atlanta Falcons today to get into the playoffs, sacking Ron Mex…ermm…Mike Vick five times in addition to two fumbles and an interception. Unfortunately, they’ll be in as the #5 seed wild card, as Tampa Bay won the NFC South with a victory over the New Orleans Saints. (Congrats to the Bucs!) So, they’ll start on the road, traveling to the Meadowlands to face off with Eli Manning and Michael Strahan and the rest of the New York Football Giants (as Chris Berman would say) next weekend. Though with moronic losses to Dallas and Tampa Bay, the Panthers should have gotten at least a home game, if not a bye. Oh well – the playoffs are the playoffs, and when the Panthers went to the Super Bowl in ’03, they hosted a wild-card game, so it’s not like they haven’t taken the long road before.
This’ll be the first playoff appearance for the Panthers in which they do not host at least one home game. In 1996 and 2003 they both hosted the first round of the playoffs, defeating the Dallas Cowboys both times. The ’96 team managed to earn a first-round bye, too. Again, the Panthers face an NFC East team…that should be a good game. It’ll be Eli Manning’s first career NFL playoff game, so we’ll see what he’s made of when the pressure cooker’s really on.