I think the Panthers have a chance this year.
Lot depends on the health of the key play makers on the team, the offensive play calling of Shula (not known how that is going to go), Rivera putting on his big boy pants and being competitive with top coaches (not sure I believe that will happen, but whatever).
I do not put a lot of stock in the last 5-6 games of the year as 1) less teams in turns of quality and some had little to play for other than pride.
September will say a lot for the Panthers. If they escape September 2-2 or 3-1, then they have a chance on the momentum train having mastered a couple of quality teams.
If they come out has they have the past 5 years in September, 0-4 or 1-3, forget about it and Rivera needs to be shown the door.