Wrap-up: Panthers 17, Raiders 6

Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers' 17-6 victory against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: It’s the third straight win for the Panthers and puts them at 6-9. The Panthers even have a chance to finish outside of last place in the NFC South, which seemed like something they had locked up only a few weeks ago. That’s far too little too late after a disastrous start to the season. But spirits have been raised and the Panthers will head to the offseason with some positives to build on, no matter who is coaching the team or serving as its general manager.

Rivera watch: The winning streak helps coach Ron Rivera’s quest to keep his job tremendously. In fact, Rivera might already have done enough to stay employed. Quarterback Cam Newton has played well the second half of the season and owner Jerry Richardson might be hesitant to change coaching staffs because that might hamper Newton’s development.

Don’t get too excited: Yes, it’s very nice that the Carolina defense held Oakland to two field goals. But let’s keep this in perspective. The Panthers were playing the Raiders, who were using Matt Leinart as their quarterback.

On the plus side: One more thing that has to help Rivera’s cause is that his team was able to protect a fourth-quarter lead. That’s something that was a major problem earlier in the season.

What’s next: The Panthers conclude their season next Sunday against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.