The Carolina Panthers feel overlooked.
Undefeated and coming off a 44-16 mauling of the Washington Redskins, coach Ron Rivera was surprised to hear Monday that his 10-0 team rolls into Dallas on Thanksgiving as underdogs to the 3-7 Cowboys.
"It's nothing that we haven't seen before. You know we've had a better record in some of our other games where we were underdogs," Rivera told the media Monday. "So we are going to take it in stride. As I said, we are going to play them one at a time and as far as we are concerned everybody is 0-0 and we'll see how it comes out.
"It is a little disrespectful, I guess. But apparently they know something we don't. We are just going to prepare and get ourselves ready for Thursday. We'll show up."
It's a fair response.
Yes, the Cowboys have Tony Romo back under center, but it's another example of people looking past a Panthers team that has smashed through its schedule while winning games by an average 10.8 points per tilt, which is third best league-wide.
In reality, the Panthers grow stronger by the week. Cam Newton is playing out of his mind, while rookie wideout Devin Funchess has emerged to give his quarterback the exciting, big-bodied target they lost when Kelvin Benjamin went down for the year. Carolina's ground game is beastly, the team is exceptionally well-coached and their fourth-ranked defense is about to get a major player back in the lineup.
Johnson was placed on IR boomerang after Week 3 with a hamstring injury, but returns just in time to give Carolina a vaunted weapon against Romo and the 'Boys.
With or without him, though, the Panthers haven't just shed the underdog label -- they've carved it up and set on fire.