Wrap-up: Panthers 19, Cardinals 12

A few thoughts on the Panthers win over the Cardinals.

What it means: In this much-anticipated showdown between rookie gunslingers Jimmy Clausen and John Skelton, the Panthers won, but still might have delivered the worst possible result. Carolina’s still the leader in the battle for the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, but, at 2-12, the Panthers now have only one less loss than the Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos are losing by 10 to Oakland as I write this. A loss would put the Broncos at 3-13. Carolina still is in pretty good shape if it comes down to tie-breakers. But, what if the Panthers do something really crazy, like finish John Fox’s regime on a three-game winning streak. If that happens, they better hope Clausen really finishes strong because they’ll be booting the chance to get Andrew Luck at No. 1, if he decides to pass up his senior season.

Positive Panther stat of the day: Clausen got his first victory as an NFL starter in what will probably be Fox’s final home game at Bank of America Stadium. Reminds me of something I heard about Clausen not too long ago: “He ain’t in Notre Dame anymore, that’s for sure.’’

Positive Panther stat of the day II: Jonathan Stewart rushed for 137 yards. When healthy, which wasn’t the case for much of the season, Stewart’s been very solid.

What’s next: The entire nation (maybe even some lucky viewers in Canada and Mexico) gets to see the surging Panthers on Thursday night as they travel to Pittsburgh. Word on the street is general manager Marty Hurney has planned a side meeting with University of Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri, the son of former Carolina assistant Sal Sunseri, to see if he can coax him into entering the draft if Luck runs out.