Charlotte, NC - Immediately after Carolina crushed the Atlanta Falcons in a winner-take-all game for the NFC South title in Week 17 last season, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, "The beautiful thing (is) record doesn't matter."
Rivera's statement couldn't have rang more true if he'd made it again two months ago.
Carolina's current 12-0 mark certainly looks much prettier than last year's mediocre 7-8-1 line that was enough to qualify for the playoffs, and after five weeks this year it seemed Sunday's matchup against the visiting Falcons would be the first of two important games in another down-to-the-wire race for the division crown.
The Falcons moved to 5-0 with a 25-19 overtime victory over Washington on Oct. 11, just ahead of the 4-0 Panthers. But in what could wind up being an historic meltdown, Atlanta has dropped six of seven since to fall out of playoff position.
Full story at FoxSports.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.