The Carolina Panthers are off to their best start in franchise history (6-0) and they have won 10 straight regular-season games in a streak that dates back to 2014.
The Indianapolis Colts have a losing record at 3-4, but they enter their matchup against the Panthers on Monday Night Football (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN) in first place in the AFC South.
Panthers perfect through six games
According to ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI), the Panthers have a 57 percent chance of beating the Colts and remaining perfect on the season.
The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that only two teams have had a better start than the Panthers following a losing season since the AFL/NFL merger in 1970. The St. Louis Cardinals started 7-0 in 1974 and the Kansas City Chiefs started 9-0 in 2013.
Defense has been the key to the Panther's success during their 10-game win streak.
The Panthers entered Week 8 ranked second in points per game allowed (15.3) and turnover margin (+10) since the start of their winning streak in Week 14 of last season. During that span, the Panthers’ 4.8 yards allowed per play ranks third in the NFL behind the Denver Broncos (4.4) and Seattle Seahawks (4.5).
Cam Newton’s great play late in games has been another key.
Newton has a fourth-quarter Total QBR of 93 this season, highest in the NFL. The last quarterback with a higher fourth-quarter Total QBR over a full season was Peyton Manning in 2006 (94), the year he led the Colts to a Super Bowl title.
Struggling Colts still in first place
The Colts have a losing record through their first seven games for just the third time in the last 15 seasons. At 3-4, they have a half-game lead over the Texans in the AFC South. The last team to win a division with a non-winning record was the Colts' Monday Night opponent, the Panthers, in 2014.
According to Elias, the Colts are the first team since the merger to lead their division with a losing record exactly seven weeks into a season.
Andrew Luck’s fourth season in the NFL has been his worst one yet. His Total QBR of 38 ranks 30th in the NFL, ahead of only Ryan Tannehill (36) and Sam Bradford (30). Luck’s Total QBR was between 61 and 68 in each of his first three seasons with the Colts.
Turnovers have been the biggest issue for Luck.
Over the last 10 seasons, only two players have turned the ball over at a higher rate than Luck’s 2.00 turnovers per game this season -- Matt Cassel in 2012 (2.11) and Matthew Stafford in 2009 (2.10).
If Luck’s troubles continue and the Colts lose to the Panthers, they will fall to 1-4 with Luck under center on Monday Night Football. The Colts went 11-3 on Monday Night Football with Peyton Manning at quarterback from 1998-2010.