The Carolina Panthers are for real

Why an elite defense can carry Carolina into the postseason

Updated: November 11, 2013, 2:13 PM ET
By Matt Williamson | ESPN Insider

Luke KuechlyGrant Halverson/Getty ImagesLuke Kuechly leads a dominant Carolina Panthers defense.
The Carolina Panthers came into San Francisco on Sunday and won 10-9 in a physical, grind-it-out football game. It's the type of game this team simply hasn't won the past couple of seasons. Carolina's defense was fantastic and the offense under Cam Newton did enough to win. The Panthers have now won five in a row, are 6-3 overall and find themselves in the thick of the NFC South race and overall playoff picture.

Are the Panthers for real? And can this exceptional defense carry them to the playoffs?