Saturday, August 8, 2015

ENTER THE CAM CONTEST



The CAM CONTEST is underway... official entries will be accepted up until the opening day of the 2015 season... which is Sunday, Sept. 13 @ 12 Noon EDT.

Go HERE to Enter---
http://bobspanthers.blogspot.com/2014/08/cam-contest.html

Please READ all of the Official Rules before submitting your entry.  Good Luck!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Protecting the Blind Side

OT Michael Oher (#73)
New Panther Michael Oher
Oher as a Raven
Most people know or remember Michael Oher through his portrayal by actor Quinton Aaron in the Academy-award winning film The Blind Side in 2009.  However, Michael Oher wants his coaches, teammates, and fans to know him by his excellent play on the football field.  He was a first-team college All American at Ole Miss in 2008, and drafted in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens, where he spent five seasons and won a Super Bowl. After a disappointing year with the Tennessee Titans, the Panthers signed him to a two-year contract and gave him the starting Left Tackle position formerly held by Byron Bell.

General Manager Dave Gettleman and the rest of the Panthers front office and staff see a huge potential for Oher.  Gettleman said, "We feel very strongly that he can be an answer for us."  It appears that the team has acquired quite a gift that shores up a huge gap left by the departure of Bell.   Most of the other offensive linemen are returners, including longtime veteran C Ryan Kalil.   While some feel this to be a weak spot on the team, it appears that the returners have chemistry, and also welcome the addition of the 6'4" 315 lb. Oher to the lineup.  In addition to him, the Panthers also traded up to acquire tackle Daryl Williams from Oklahoma in the 4th round of the draft.

Michael Oher and his 'mom'
Sandra Bullock in "The Blind Side"
Oher's life story was chosen and adapted from a book called Blind Side: Evolution of a Game (2006).  When asked about the movie, which starred actress Sandra Bullock as his adopted mother Leigh Ann Tuohy , Oher says it's not one of his favorites, and he rarely watches it, although its reruns are broadcast periodically.  It portrayed him as a gifted athlete, growing up in poverty, who was quite inept as a student.  True-- his GPA was once 0.76 and caused the NCAA to investigate his potential enrollment at Mississippi, but by the end of his senior year, he had raised it to a respectable 2.52.  Although he is positive about the effects the film has had on underprivileged youth across the country, he downplays the exaggerated stereotype of his character.

Michael Oher will be out to get his career back on track, being on his third team in three years, having been cut by both Baltimore and Tennessee.  His job will be to duplicate his character's movie role, when he protects QB Cam Newton's blind side during each game. The Panthers are betting on him to come through for them in a big way.  Hopefully, that will result in a low sack total and a successful season for the Carolina Panthers.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

TWO DECADES OF PROMISES

   It's been awhile since the last Panthers (or sports) post.  That's NOT to say that I haven't been comtemplating the upcoming season, and reading everything that I could get my hands (or eyes) on about the Carolina Panthers.  Last year's up-and-down rollercoaster season ended on the upswing.  After going 12-4 with a division championship in 2013, the Panthers started with two wins, and fans' fantasies began to conjure up aspirations for another great season.  However, this temporary dream quickly became a nightmare as the Panthers went 1-8-1 over the next ten games, with a six-game losing streak.  

2014 NFC South Standings
    At the start of December, the Panthers stood at 3-8-1, and in third place in the NFC South.  Their chances of any hopes for the playoffs looked dim, as only the lowly Tampa Bay Bucs stood between them and last place.  Then something happened.  A kind of metaphorosis brought a butterfly out of Carolina's cocoon, and the Panthers ran the table over the last four games, going a perfect 4-0.   Even though their mediocre 7-8-1 record was nothing to write home about, three of those last four wins were against division foes, allowing them to squeak by the Saints into first place and make the playoffs.   
   
   So-- here we stand, going into the 2015 season, having won two straight division titles, where is there to go from here?   Some prognosticators and fans expect an average year for Carolina.  I've seen predictions of 8-8 and 9-7.  One of these was even from an ex-Panther player, DE Mike Rucker.  However, there are others, including most of the Panthers players and staff, who anticipate a third division title and/or playoff spot. Some are even going so far as to predict a Super Bowl.

Panthers DE Mario Addison
  Reserve DE Mario Addison said from Panthers training camp, "They're ain't no limits-- we're going all the way...   I see a Super Bowl.  I feel it, man."  Teammate TE Greg Olsen replied, "Would I be surprised if we did (make the Super Bowl)?  No."   Such sentiments are welcomed by Head Coach Ron Rivera.  However, he added that he didn't want to see these comments in the newspapers.  (That's where this reporter read them!)   Fans may recall that at the beginning of 2012, center Ryan Kalil took out a full-page advertisement in the Charlotte Observer where he told everybody of his prediction that the team would go all the way (and WIN) the Super Bowl.  The Panthers ended up not even making the playoffs.

   Advertised or not, the Panthers' chances look good this year.  They retained 21 out of 22 starters from last year's team, plus adding some valuable players through the draft and free agency.   Some of them include new rookie WR Devin Funchess and the return of speedy WR/PR Ted Ginn, Jr. on offense, as well as new rookie LB Shaq Thompson and veteran DB's Charles TIllman and Chris Houston on defense.   This bumper crop of new talent combines with such all-star veteran Panthers as QB Cam Newton, RB Jonathan Stewart, and LB's Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis.  The Panthers look to be stronger in every area, which prompts a bystander like me to give the team just a better than average chance to make it deep into the playoffs, or maybe go all the way.

Panthers Schedule
   However, lots of things can go wrong during a season.  Already, a valued reserve went down with an injury in training camp.  As I look over the 2015 Panthers schedule, it is anything but a cakewalk.   I see no reason why Carolina cannot go 4-0 or 3-1 over the first four games.  But then, after their BYE week, they hit a potential brick wall, playing four games against playoff teams, including at defending NFC champion Seattle, and then three straight home games against Philadelphia, Indianapolis, and Green Bay.  These four opponents' combined 2014 records were 45-19.   A tough road to travel.

   My feeling is that if the Panthers get to mid-season with a 5-3 or better record, then their chances are more than optimistic to repeat as a playoff contender.  After this four-game test, the rest of their schedule looks much easier, with the only question marks being a Thanksgiving Day contest at Dallas, and then three games against division foes Atlanta and New Orleans.  They aced NFC South teams in December last year;  that's a good sign, although it's no guarantee this time around.
______________________

   Will this be the year that the 1995 Super Bowl promise by owner Jerry Richardson 
finally and belatedly comes to pass?  (see Editor's note--- below) 
We'll have to wait and see. But some, like myself, see a glimmer of hope.

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson

   Okay-- buckle your seats, Panthers fans!   Here we go.  We're getting ready for take-off on another exciting Panthers NFL season.  I'm ready... what about you ? 
______________________

Editor's Note--- just in case you're a longtime Panthers fan (like myself), and 
actually remember owner Jerry Richardson's original Super Bowl promise in '95, 
yes-- you are right, it was a promise to win the Super Bowl within ten (10) years
The Panthers came close three times, making it to the NFC Championship in 
1996, 2003, and 2005, and one of those years (2003) they appeared in the Super Bowl, 
narrowly losing to the New England Patriots in the closing seconds of the game, 32-29.

PLEASE LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW

Guest Bloggers are Welcome at this Panthers blog and all other sports blog here.  
Just leave us a note, stating your interest.  All published content is subject to the editor's approval.

CAM CONTEST




Panthers Fans!
      Bob's "Panthers Blog" brings you a Fun Contest! --- Okay, HERE WE GO!  

  All you have to do is to log in to our "Comments" section at the bottom of this blog post, and enter in your PREDICTION for the 2015 Panthers Regular Season Record.  { Remember- this is a 16-game season, so a prediction of 10-2 will be invalid. The wins & losses have to total 16 games }.

  We are stipulating that there must be at least 10 (or more) contestants to be a Valid Contest.  If more than a few fans participate, there are bound to be TIES for the winning record prediction, so BE SURE to also include your tie-breaker entry.

  ALSO--We have to know who you are to award the winner, so please specify : (1) your first name & initial, and your hometown in the blog comment, and then (2) send us an email with your full name.  You must complete BOTH of these to be eligible to win.

  So--you may say-- What's the Deal?  you haven't specified the CONTEST PRIZE.  Well-- we're keeping THAT a secret right now.  Last year, there was only ONE contestant, and she didn't follow the rules correctly.  So we're waiting to see if there are enough contestants (10 or more) to even award a winner.  

   But don't let THAT fool you.  We're planning on a nice prize.  Some of our ideas are an autographed Panthers cap, or a meet-and-greet with a Panthers player.  And all you have to do is--LEAVE A COMMENT-- with your predictions!   Pretty Easy, huh?

BE SURE TO READ THE "OFFICIAL RULES" BEFORE PLAYING


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What's One Man's Worth?

   It's been almost six months since my last Panthers post.  While no games have been played, a lot has happened.  Trades have been made.  The NFL draft took place.   The Panthers are a better team.   Perhaps the biggest reason for this, however, just took place yesterday when the team agreed to pay quarterback CAM NEWTON an $103 million salary extension over five years.

   The last time that I remember being so excited about a pro football contract was reading about JOE NAMATH's (see my sports blog) contract with the New York Jets.  You see, at that time, I was not yet a Jets fan, but by 1968, I was following them, and that year they won the Super Bowl.  This was a pretty big deal because, at the time, the Jets were part of the new, upstart AFL, playing against the old, established NFL team Baltimore Colts.   After the Jets upset the Colts to win the championship, his $427,000 rookie contract paled in comparison to the team's accomplishments.

Quote by Marcus Aurelius
  In similar fashion, the Panthers are paying their QB an enormous sum (the biggest in NFL history) to keep him in the fold, and hopefully pave the way to a championship.  NEWTON himself said that his main focus is "bringing a Lombardi (Super Bowl) trophy to Carolina."  Will it happen?   Maybe.  But maybe not right away. 

  What about this season?   Well--- it could happen, but nothing's for sure.  I've taken a look at our schedule, and we have an away game against NFL champ Seattle, and then a tough three-game home stand against the Eagles, Colts, and Patriots.   No blowover.  These four games in November could make a huge difference in the success of our season.  So we'll keep watch.  Hopefully, by then, the Panthers will be in the driver's seat for another division title or a playoff berth.

   Next up-- an article looking into the changes in the Panthers lineup since last season.  We'll welcome a new rookie receiver, welcome back a speedy veteran receiver, and look at some other additions on offense and defense.   The Panthers are a much better team this year, and we'll look at all of the reasons why.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Back to the Ole Drawing Board

Turnovers were the Difference
      In my last post, I remarked, "I can say one thing with almost a certainty—the team that wins this game will most likely be the one with not just the most points, but the least amount of turnovers."
         
The Wrong End of the Stick
    A friend remarked, "You called the game perfect, only for the wrong team."  I had predicted a 31-17 score, and that's exactly what it proved to be, only I had called the game for the Panthers, and it was the Seahawks who came out ahead in the end.

    How true this held out in this game.   I'm also reminded of the recent NCAA college Championship Game between Ohio State and Oregon, in which OSU committed four turnovers, but yet still won the game convincingly.  I don't know if it's the Seahawks or the NFL in general, but this type of scenario does not usually take place in pro playoff games.
    
    Still, the Panthers held the ball at the Seahawks 13-yard line, with about six minutes to go in the game, just a short distance from making the game close.  It was 24-10, a two touchdown advantage, but with the Panthers knocking at the goal line's door, it would've brought the score to 24-17, with plenty of time to force a tie and overtime.  Even with all of the other mistakes in the game, two fumbles and an interception, our team still had a great chance for a comeback.   One errant throw made all of the difference.

     If you look at a replay, right after the snap, as QB Cam Newton is preparing to deliver the fatal throw, RB Jonathan Stewart (#28) drifts into the left flat.  Newton briefly glanced in that direction, but it was apparent that he was not throwing to him.  Instead, he
Cam to Kam
turned to his right, fixing his glance on TE Ed Dickson, but Seahawks defensive back Kam Chancellor had a laser focus on the ball, and stepping in front, grabbed the pass as if it was intended for him, and raced 89 yards for the decisive score.   But if you notice, Stewart was --- WIDE OPEN --- for a pass on the left side.  The closest defender was 5-10 yards away.  He obviously would've taken a pass for a first down, and maybe even a touchdown.  C'est la vie.  I don't know why or how our quarterback missed this read or obvious open receiver, but instead hand-delivered the ball to the other team. It would have made a HUGE difference in the game.  


    But apparently, this is the difference between a good team and a great team.  We hung tough for three quarters, but in the fourth (and decisive) one, we fell apart and made the pivotal mistake.  On the other hand, Seattle was patient, making good plays, but waiting for that one opportunity that would make the momentum shift toward their team.  This reminds me so much of the 1960's Green Bay Packers.  Coach Pete Carroll seems to be a much more mild mannered man than Vince Lombardi, but still he gets the same type of results.  I used to hate Green Bay with a passion, while I still admired them greatly.  My favorite team was the New York Jets.  In the 60's, they were still part of the old AFL. But in the NFL, I liked teams like the Baltimore Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, and Dallas Cowboys.  And whenever Green Bay played one of these other teams, I always pulled for their opponent.  I remember games like the "Ice Bowl" (Dec. 1967), and there was the game with the Colts one year before (Dec. 1966) where the game (and the season) was decided on what was called "the million-dollar fumble" (by Johnny Unitas).
  
NFL DYNASTY TEAMS
   
    So much for nostalgic, archaic NFL trivia.  Suffice to say-- each decade has had at least one dominant team, and Seattle is now a dominant team, in the mold of the 60's Packers, the 70's Steelers, the 80's 49'ers, or the 90's Patriots.   Can anyone unseat them?   Maybe, but it won't be the Panthers (at least at this particular moment).

Yep --it happens
    We've got a lot of work to do.   After the game, there was "trash talk" all over Facebook and the Internet about firing Coach Rivera and General Manager Dave Gettleman, and also about letting Cam Newton go also.  Face it-- we had a great year, in light of all of the distractions and bad circumstances that fell on the Panthers team.   Look at all of these :  (1) Losing our entire receiving corps, (2) the early foot and rib injuries to QB Cam Newton, (3) the retirement of OT Jordan Gross, (4) the court debacle with DE Greg Hardy, (5) the constant rotating of the offensive line and defensive backs, due to injuries and poor performance, (6) the late season traffic accident with Newton, and (7) Coach Rivera's house fire.

    Lately, there is talk about Salary Cap room and landing one or more franchise type players, particularly another receiver.  I'm not sure what will transpire, but one thing should be clear :  it's not time to overturn the apple cart.   We seem to be on a positive upswing, having won our division two years in a row.  It would be unprecedented to win the NFC South a third straight year, but we have as good a chance as any of the other three teams in our division.   So what's the big beef with the status quo?   We're not standing still.  The management is looking at making positive changes, while still trying to maintain the core nucleus of our team.  We may need a new receiver, or defensive back.  But we don't need a whole new team, or new staff.

Yep, it was a Pretty Good Year... after all.
        Don't lose hope.  We should've won this game.  But we were the few that believed.  Most did not give us a chance.   And even though we lost, we lost to a great team.  They were better than us, and proved it on the field.   But we can get better, without a wholesale revamping of our entire team.   So-- my message is to be patient, enjoy what we accomplished this year.  It was a major surprise to everyone in and around the NFL.  Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles are probably upset.  They finished 10-6, and we were 7-8-1, yet we got in the playoffs, and they sat home.  But it's not our fault.  We played the system, and won.  We were 3-8-1 in November, and won five straight games.

    Good luck to the Seahawks.   Actually, I'm pulling for Green Bay this time.  (believe it or not)  But Seattle's favored, and if they win, I may pull for them in the Super Bowl.   No grudges or bad feelings.  They deserved to win.   So-- maybe next year?   We'll see.  Time will tell. 

NEXT GAME-- Sunday, Sept. 13
UNTIL THEN-- I REMAIN-- A  PANTHERS FAN  FOREVER (PFF) !
 

Friday, January 9, 2015

HUNGRY PANTHERS ON THE PROWL

    CAROLINA PANTHERS vs SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
NFC DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF 
________________________________________________________________
Panthers are NFC South Champs
    If you listen carefully, you may be able to hear a growl emanating from Charlotte, North Carolina.  The Carolina Panthers are celebrating 20 years in the NFL this year. Out of those 20 years, only five of them have resulted in a trip to the playoffs. This year, as unlikely as it once seemed, is one of those years.  Starting out 3-8-1, things looked dismal as they went seven weeks without a win (their odds were 750-1 of making the Super Bowl), but the Panthers are now on a five-game winning streak.  They revived their season, winning the NFC South in the last regular season game at Atlanta, refueled it last week in a home playoff win vs. Arizona, and now are hungry for more heading into Seattle for Saturday's (Jan.10) NFC divisional playoff game.

Thumbs Down to ESPN
    The sports team at ESPN has picked the Seahawks to win by anywhere from 8 to 18 points.  Oddsmakers have Seattle as an 11-point favorite.  No big surprise.  The Seahawks are defending NFL Super Bowl champs, and are 12-4 and NFC West division champs in 2014.  Plus they’ve won the last three games with the Panthers, all close, low-scoring games, the most recent matchup during this year, by a score of 13-9.   While the Panthers are on a five-game winning streak, most observers miss the fact that the Seahawks are on a six-game winning streak themselves. The Seattle defense allowed only 6.5 ppg during this stretch, while the Panthers allowed 10.8 ppg, ranking 1ST and 2ND in the league.

PANTHERS ARE RED HOT
   So, while overall, these teams appear to be somewhat of a mismatch (team records of 12-4 and 8-8-1), in reality, these are two different teams than those that started the regular season.   You could look at this as a matchup of two undefeated teams (over the last 5-6 games).  Both the Seahawks and the Panthers are red hot in December,  playing their best football when it has counted the most.

Error Free

   I can say one thing with almost a certainty—the team that wins this game will most likely be the one with not just the most points (duh!), but the least amount of turnovers.  Cam Newton had two turnovers in the Arizona game, and while they changed the momentum temporarily, the outcome was never really in question.  I believe this time, while the turnover stat will be important for both teams, it will be even more crucial for Carolina.  It seems more feasible for me that the Seahawks could have a fumble or interception and still win the game.  But the Panthers must play error free football.  Of course, one stat that doesn’t really appear in the box score is –WHERE- a fumble or interception occurs on the field.   While no turnover is a good one, they become worse when they happen inside of a team’s 20-yard line, automatically putting the opponent in scoring position.  The bottom line is—while the Panthers need to move the ball down the field and score, they also need to protect the ball first and foremost.

   If the Panthers win, I see Cam Newton having a great game, but I also see a defensive player having an excellent game, possibly Luke Kuechly or Charles Johnson, or one of the young defensive backs.  If they can hold the Seahawks to a couple of touchdowns, and possibly force a couple of turnovers, it will pave the way for a Panthers win.

   So what is my prediction?  Most people are predicting a Seahawks win, possibly by a close margin.   I see it differently.  I know that I’m sticking my neck out here, but I see a blowout coming.  It might be Seattle rolling over the Panthers, but I’m predicting it the other way.  If Carolina can execute its best game of the season, with the offense playing relatively error free, and the defense exerting pressure on the Seahawks, I see the Panthers winning big.    
 
  Panthers 31, Seahawks 17.
NEXT GAME-- ?