The second half of the NFL season is under way. This is often the case when winning is most important as the teams start to fight for the playoff seed and fight for the home advantage.
It is also when teams fall on their high perch. The pretenders tend to show up in these hard-to-win games when other teams become more desperate or diligent. That's what we saw on Thursday night, when the Pittsburgh Steelers embarrassed the Carolina Panthers (52-21).
Here are some of the NFL's biggest pretenders, who are sure to be in the second half of the season.
Her defense got a look at a legitimate contender, and Carolina shrunk. The Panthers were broadcast on national television.
Their biggest successes this season were the Cincinnati Bengals, the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles. But they've lost casualties to the Atlanta Falcons, the Washington Redskins, and the Steelers. Carolina seems to have an opportunity early in the season to replenish her stats and record. The final blow for the Panthers is the schedule from Week 15 to Week 17, where they play the Saints twice and the Falcons once. This could help Atlanta jump over the Panthers to make room for a wildcard.
Quarterback Cam Newton's pass-catchers are having trouble opening up, aside from running away from Christian McCaffrey. However, feeding him did not allow the team to compete with the Steelers, who scored fast and easily with almost any possession. What's worse, Newton's offensive line could not protect him and allowed five sacks. The defense could be a strange mix of too old and too young players. Linebacker Luke Kuechly can not do it all, though he'll probably try.