CHARLOTTE -- You'd think at 10-3 and with a chance to be the top seed in the NFC playoffs, the Panthers would have attracted some notice.
We'll find out how much they're getting on an individual level when Pro Bowl rosters are announced Tuesday. No Panthers were among the top players at their positions in fan voting, but that's no surprise. Players and coaches voted last week, and coming off a huge win on national television, the Panthers could get a bump off that.
A look at who might get a trip to Hawaii, and who should, from the Panthers:
LG Travelle Wharton: If you go by merit, he'd probably be the first one on the list. But the quiet Wharton has no interest in campaigning or drawing attention to himself.
Asked last week if he thought he'd have a shot, he laughed and looked somewhat embarrassed by the question.
"I don't know. I really don't pay it any attention," Wharton said. "I just want us to continue to win and be successful on the field. That's all that matters with me, how the Carolina Panthers are doing. Everything else will handle itself."
Of course, that attitude is what makes him so valuable in Charlotte, his head-down willingness to work. He moved inside after getting the big paycheck, and his power on the interior has been the key to the Panthers' re-energized running game.
DE Julius Peppers: He has rebounded as promised this year, with 12.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. The tough part is, there are three other NFC ends with 12.5 sacks -- Atlanta's John Abraham, Minnesota's Jared Allen and Justin Tuck of the New York Giants. They only take three, so somebody is getting left out.
MLB Jon Beason: Numbers shouldn't matter because everybody's middle linebacker gets a lot of tackles, and guys on bad teams get more because they're on the field more often. He's the soul of this defense, and that's hard to quantify. He and Patrick Willis should share the two spots for the next decade or so.
CB Chris Gamble: Maybe his new contract will garner him enough attention to reward his play. He doesn't have big interception numbers (two) because he can't catch, but he's a top-shelf cover man, and people are starting to figure it out.
WR Steve Smith: He'll have a shot to go because he usually does. His numbers are fine (61 catches for 1,075 yards and five touchdowns), but the way he's carried the passing game singlehandedly should push him over the top for a fourth trip. But they take four, and with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Roddy White, Calvin Johnson, Greg Jennings and Terrell Owens out there, he's not a lock.
K John Kasay: Is being nearly perfect (21-of-22 field goals, a conference-best .955 percentage) enough? Or do the voters hold it against him that he doesn't kick off anymore?
LT Jordan Gross: Pro Bowl recognition usually lags behind actual performance that year, and it'll be curious to see if Gross' consistency will finally be rewarded. Gross' play has been solid this season, as he has been as steady on the left as he was on the right in years past.
Center Geoff Hangartner insisted last week that if you look at game tape, both Gross and Wharton should go. That's unlikely, given the Panthers' small-market status, but Gross has a shot.
RB DeAngelo Williams: Might be making a late run at one of three spots, but he's behind Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner and Clinton Portis in yards, and Brandon Jacobs in the popular mind.
FB Brad Hoover: Blockers don't get noticed until they get older, and you wonder if Williams and Jonathan Stewart's success will get Hoover his due?
MILE-HIGH MEMORIES: The last time Peppers played Denver, in 2004, he made two of those signature plays only he is capable of making.
Everyone remembers the 97-yard interception return, which ended at the Broncos' 3-yard line when he tripped over his own feet while looking over his shoulder for would-be tacklers. But there was another one that day, the play before. On third and goal, Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer had a clear lane to the end zone before being chased down by Peppers from the back side, setting up his interception on the next snap.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan was a little shaky on the details, but remembered vividly the athleticism.
"We're hoping he gets sick to start with so it will be a little bit easier," Shanahan said last week when asked about Peppers. "I don't know if you remember the play, I don't know how many years ago, when Peppers recovered that fumble on the one yard line and he took it 99 yards before Rod Smith got him right before the end zone. I was just amazed at his speed and how he got Jake Plummer over at the sideline and how he returned that fumble.
"I never saw a defensive end run like that."
TOP TANDEM: With last week's outburst, the Panthers' running back tandem of Williams and Stewart became the league's best, statistically.
They now have a league-high 23 touchdowns and 1,840 yards between them. That puts them ahead of Tennessee's Chris Johnson and LenDale White (1,768), Minnesota's Peterson and Chester Taylor (1,733), Atlanta's Turner and Jerious Norwood (1,699) and Jacobs and Derrick Ward of the Giants (1,671).
The team as a whole has 1,898 rushing yards this year.
While Williams and Stewart maintaining their recent pace might be unrealistic, they should still help the Panthers establish a new season rushing record. The old mark is the 2,091, set in 2003, and with three games, it would take a monumental collapse not to reach that level.
THE LAST WORD: Though he has made a reputation for being able to run with any back, Shanahan said he was amazed watching Williams and Stewart work.
Of course, that he has five running backs on injured reserve and no idea who'll start today makes him envious when he watches tape of Carolina.
"I'd have jealousy even if our guys were completely healthy," Shanahan said.
"You take a look at those two guys and how they've played and what type of ability they have. But any time you see what I consider to be two Pro Bowl talents play at an exceptional level, it was fun to watch two guys step up and make plays like they did."