Bye weeks haven't been kind to Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers have exorcised quite a few demons under coach Ron Rivera this season.

They have gone from a team that was 2-14 under Rivera in games decided by a touchdown or less two games into the season to 5-0 since. They have gone from a team that was 6-10 and 7-9 in Rivera's first two seasons to 12-4.

But there is one demon left for the Panthers to get past if they hope to get to the NFC Championship Game and achieve their goal of reaching the Super Bowl.

The bye week.

Under Rivera, the Panthers are 0-3 coming off a bye week. That's significant because they have a first-round bye in the playoffs before their Jan. 12 game against either Philadelphia, Green Bay or San Francisco.

It also should be noted that the last time Carolina had a first-round bye in the playoffs the Arizona Cardinals pummeled them, 33-13, in 2008. That was pre-Rivera, but the results after byes under the third-year coach are just as bad.

Let's take a look at them:

Nov. 13, 2011: The Tennessee Titans came to Bank of America Stadium with a 4-4 record in what would be a 9-7 season and crushed Carolina 30-3. Quarterback Cam Newton was sacked five times and the team had 12 penalties for 99 yards.

Oct. 21, 2012: The Dallas Cowboys came to Charlotte with a 2-3 record in what would be an 8-8 season and won 19-14. The Panthers had two turnovers and nine penalties for 71 yards. The next day, general manager Marty Hurney was fired.

Oct. 6, 2013: The Panthers traveled to Arizona and lost 22-6. Newton threw three interceptions and was sacked seven times. The team had nine penalties for 79 yards.

The good news is the Panthers followed the loss to Arizona with eight straight wins and 11 out of 12 to close the regular season to earn a bye.

Now they have to get past it or say goodbye to the playoffs.