The Carolina Panthers are for real

Luke Kuechly leads a dominant Carolina Panthers defense. Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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?