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It’s a beautiful early fall-like day here in Charlotte – the temperature is 68 degrees, the sun is shining, the leaves are falling off the trees … and the Panthers are playing here at home against their division rivals the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans is tied with the Bucs atop the NFC South at 3-1, while the Panthers are dwelling in the cellar at 1-3. Their record, however, is deceiving as their losses haven’t been the blowouts and/or the “no competition” games we Panthers fans had gotten used to seeing over the last few years. That’s thanks in large part to rookie QB Cam Newton and an offensive line that has seen its spirit come alive again. “Coming close to victory” is not an actual win, true. But in the eyes of many here, it’s the best we can hope for as the Panthers continue to rebuild under new head coach Ron Rivera.
The questions are: Can our special teams get it together after their disastrous performance last week? Will our defense show some renewed toughness against the Saints’ o-line? Hard to say. The Panthers D is, as NFL.com says this week, “injury-riddled.” Not only that but Cam Newton, while throwing for some phenomenal yardage in all four games – and while impressively scoring a few rushing TDs as well, is still a rookie who makes rookie mistakes.
We’ll see how it all plays out at 1 pm ET (on Fox) when the Saints come marching in and onto the field against the Panthers.
An interesting sidenote to today’s game: Kicker John Kasay, the longest serving player with the Carolina Panthers (16 seasons) who was released after last season, is now playing for the Saints. Kasay was the last of the “originals” left with the Panthers as 1995 was the ‘Cats inaugural season. I hope fans today will be classy enough to give him a warm welcome.
My office pool picks for this week: PIT, NYG, CIN, CAR, OAK, PHIL, IND, MIN, SF, NE, SD, ATL, CHI (39 points for Monday night game)
Update – 5:14 PM: Close again but no cigar. Thanks to self-defeating issues like calling a timeout with 2 seconds on the clock in the first half, allowing your opponent to get set up for a FG, cost us once again as we fall to the Saints 30-27.