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Here's how the Panthers can still make the playoffs. No, seriously

Even "Riverboat" Ron Rivera has to roll his eyes at the outlandish string of results his team would need to make the playoffs. Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Stop the presses! The Carolina Panthers still have a chance to make the playoffs.

OK, it’s not much of one.

According to the Football Power Index, there’s a 0.0004 percent chance that Carolina (5-8) could win the second wild-card spot. If you’re into betting, the odds are about 250,000-1.

But would coach Ron Rivera risk the long-term health of Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who has been cleared from the concussion protocol, for that?

Here’s what would have to happen, beginning with the Panthers winning tonight’s game at Washington and their final two games against Atlanta and Tampa Bay to get to 8-8:

    • Tampa Bay (8-6) would have to lose its final two games, including the finale against the Panthers.

    • Green Bay (8-6) would have to lose its last two games.

    • Minnesota (7-7) would have to beat the Packers next week and lose to the Bears in the finale.

    • New Orleans (6-8) would have to beat Tampa Bay and then lose to Atlanta.

    • Pay close attention to this one: Washington (7-5-1) would have to lose once and tie once in the final two games after losing to Carolina on Monday Night Football.

If you’re wondering, there’s less than a 1 percent chance that any NFL game ends in a tie. And since 1974, when overtime was added in the regular season, no team has had two ties in the same season.

But should all of that happen and the Panthers end up in a tie with Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Minnesota and New Orleans, then they would win the tiebreaker with a 7-5 NFC record.

Simple, right?

OK, the Panthers are toast.

But for those who believe there really is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, there’s a chance.