On Your Mark: Enjoy the undefeated Panthers, this may never happen again

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates during Sunday’s win over the Redskins.
Carolina quarterback Cam Newton (1) celebrates during Sunday’s win over the Redskins. The Associated Press

I’m sorry Carolina Panthers fans, but nobody saw this coming.

A bargain-bin Super Bowl pick before the season began, and essentially a throwaway after the season-ending injury to their star receiver Kelvin Benjamin, the Panthers are now set to complete a rare feat on Thanksgiving.

And I’m not talking about their blueberry-themed uniforms, either.

The 10-0 Panthers are bringing an undefeated record into a Thanksgiving Day tilt for the first time since the Packers in 2011. And if you’re coming back at me with a resounding “so …” take this into account as they face the Cowboys on Thursday: Those are the only two teams on that list.

Going back to the completion of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, no team other than that *Green Bay squad has come into the game with fewer than one loss. Believe me, I checked (and it was not an enjoyable study session). Now, if you’re like me, and wonder why there have been two teams to complete this feat in the last five years after a 41-year drought, there are some pretty obvious explanations.

▪ The three-game slate has only been around since 2006, and that’s granted two more teams the opportunity to play, and two more chances for one of the top-echelon teams to be scheduled. Prior to that (post-merger) only two games were played.

▪ The Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions always play. Now, the Cowboys have flirted with going undefeated a few times, but the Lions, not so much. And if you think I’m just being a Lions hater, keep in mind that not only have they never been undefeated, they’re the only team to ever come into a Thanksgiving game winless. And they’ve done it twice. So what does that mean? During that 41-year drought, 25 percent of the teams never really had a chance at a perfect record.

So while you’re watching Cam Newton’s debate-stirring gyrations, keep in mind his team is doing something no one thought they could do, all while doing something no one ever does. Oh, and get a load of those uniforms.

*Good and bad news: The good - Green Bay finished the 2011 season 15-1.

The Bad - Green Bay was blown out in their first playoff game 37-20 by a New York Giants team that finished the season 9-7 and won a weak NFC East. The Giants went on to beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Draw whatever parallels you’d like.

College basketball gets running start

Despite how top-ranked North Carolina may have made things look as it fell to Northern Iowa on Saturday, these early-season games are supposed to be cupcakes. Well, at least until the season really kicks off with the early-season tournaments that make up an interesting Thanksgiving week.

It’s a chance for many teams to get an early look at some non-conference competition, and most times this occurs in some far-off location. Maybe on a Navy ship, or in some odd-looking amphitheater. Don’t miss out. Check here for a good breakdown of many of the biggest events.

High school playoffs

The high school football playoffs are winding toward a conclusion, and two area teams remain in the hunt for an elusive state title. And they happen to be region foes. The Myrtle Beach Seahawks manhandled Hilton Head Island, winning 63-27, and Georgetown rolled to a win over Brookland-Cayce by a score of 33-13. Myrtle Beach will host Hartsville on Friday at 7 p.m., and Georgetown will travel to Midland Valley.

Jeff Nowak: 843-444-1767, @JNowakTSN