So I did a little digging on time of possession. In 2012, the top half of the league (teams that were at or above 30:00 in average TOP) looked like this:
On this list you'll find 9 of last years' 12 playoff teams. The only teams that didn't win the average TOP battle were the Minnesota Vikings (28:24 which actually placed them as 28th in the league), Cincinnati Bengals (29:23, placing them just outside the top half at 17) and coincidentally the defending SuperBowl Champion Baltimore Ravens came in at a lowly 27:49, good for 30th in the NFL last year.
So while there's no guarantee that winning the TOP battle will get you into the playoffs--the Pittsburgh Steelers were second in the league, for example--you're more likely to get into January if your team is holding onto the ball.
How this directly relates to the topic of this thread and the Panthers' possibly more conservative offense, I'll let you all continue to debate but there's just a keyhole's worth of context when it comes to time of possession.
Edit: source for the above table is http://www.teamranki...ssion-net-of-ot