Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl--- SUPERB?

THE SUPER BOWL? ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   Superb-- the definition is--- excellent, superlative, first--rate, first--class, outstanding, remarkable, marvelous, magnificent, wonderful, splendid, admirable, noteworthy, impressive, fine, exquisite, exceptional, glorious.

   Wow!   Could a football game be ALL of that--- and more?    Well--- Carolina Panthers--- the team, coaches, and fans--- all hope so.

   This Super Bowl has the #1 Offense vs. the #1 Defense.  The Panthers average over 30 points a game, and over 500 yards of offense per game.   The Broncos lead the league in lowest yard average per pass AND run.   Pretty amazing stats!

   It's like the old adage of--- The Irresistible Force (Panthers) vs. the Immoveable Object (Broncos).  

   If you had told me last year that the Panthers would even be in the Super Bowl, it would have been hard to fathom.   But if I had believed you, I would've said that it would've been the Panthers who had the #1 defense.  Not so.   Earlier this season, the Panthers were the #1 Offense and the #1 Defense.   But Denver overtook them in the defensive category.

WAITING GAME -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   I can't believe that it's been over a month since I wrote my last Panthers blog--- especially since so much has happened in that time span-- We clinched the division title.   We won two playoff games against quality opponents in convincing fashion.    We also lost a game to the Falcons, and lost two (count 'em) starting players, and almost a third one, to injuries.

   But it's been more than just a month in waiting.  It's been twenty long years for everyone.  A Double Decade.  We came close several times.   1996.   2003.    And yet--- now we are on the cusp of something unique, something great.   Something never before achieved in the history of the franchise.
A SUPER BOWL VICTORY

    What do I think the game will be like?   Some say it will be a defensive struggle.   It might start that way.   Some think that the two quarterbacks will be in a shootout.    Maybe.   I'm torn in trying to figure out how it may go.  It's been a long time coming, and so I think that I'm just going to sit back and just enjoy it.  

MY PREDICTION -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
   If you want a prediction, I'll say --PANTHERS-- (of course)-- the score?---  Most of you are probably thinking 24--21 or 17--14.   A lower--scoring, close game.    It could happen that way.   But I think the following will happen--
  • The Panthers' offensive line will do much better against Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware than the Broncos' offensive line will do against Charles Johnson and Kawann Short.   I predict Manning will not be a big factor and will be sacked at least five times.   Cam?    Maybe once or twice;
  • A combination of Jonathan Stewart and Newton will be able to run against the Broncos.  I look for them to have 150 yards on the ground.  This will also open up the passing game for the Panthers;
  •  I believe that Ted Ginn will have a big play in the game--- either with a touchdown pass or a punt return.
  • The Panthers' defense will force several turnovers--- both interceptions and fumbles.  They forced 48 turnovers so far this year, which leads the league.      I think the Panthers' offense may also make mistakes, but they will be few, and they will be able to overcome them better than the Broncos. 

   I may be all wrong--- if so, I'll admit to it-- the way I look at it, if the Panthers win, I don't really care if I predicted it correctly or not.   But here goes "nothing"--- my prediction?
Panthers 41, Broncos 17

   We will see how it goes.  In the meantime, if you read this BEFORE the game, include your own prediction below in the comments section.   I'd be interested in seeing WHO predicts the game correctly or not.

   Hope we are celebrating a Panthers victory--- see ya next time on The Panthers Blog.

GO PANTHERS!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Stretch Run

KEEP ON-- POUNDING

    "Keep On Pounding!"--- this has become the Panthers' battle cry over the past few seasons.  First initiated by popular Panthers linebacker Sam Mills, and immortalized during his fight with cancer, this team mantra has excited and motivated both players and fans.    The focus of this slogan has been the "Pounding", and the team has a tradition before games, when someone who's usually a big fan or celebrity (or both) gets picked to pound a huge drum on the sidelines.

   As the Panthers hit the home stretch, an equally important focus are the words "Keep On"--- it's easy to get ahead of the game, setting our sights on the playoffs, or even the Super Bowl, and allow our attention to be diverted from the most important thing--- the next game.   The Panthers have two more regular season games.  

   For the first three quarters of the Giants game, it appeared that the Panthers were in Super Focus mode--- they were up on the Giants by 35-7, a supposedly unsurmountable lead.  But no one seemed to make that clear to the Giants.   Suddenly, they came back to life.    Giants QB Eli Manning threw three of his four touchdown passes in the second half, and the last one to tie the game at 35-35.   The our own QB--- and Superman-- Cam Newton helped march the Panthers down the field, and set up a game--winning field goal by kicker Graham Gano with no time left on the clock.

   It seemed that although the game itself was dramatic enough in its own right, Panthers CB Josh Norman and Giants' Odell Beckham, Jr. stole the show with their own personal struggle. Both players drew multiple penalties, and Beckham was suspended one game by the NFL for their rough and tough personal battle.

HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE

  Against the Falcons, we have the opportunity to clinch Home Field Advantage during the playoffs.   This writer thought we would clinch that with a win over the Giants, but it escaped my attention that the Cardinals also had to lose.   Since they didn't cooperate, we still have to win vs. the Falcons to clinch that position.

   Having "Home Field Advantage" is a big plus for this team.  It would be great to be able to stay home during the playoffs.   It would be a big disappointment to lose that advantage and have to travel to Green Bay, Seattle, or Phoenix during the postseason.   Surely, our chances of making the Super Bowl are much better if we get to play at home.

HEALTHY, WEALTHY & WISE

  One of the keys to the postseason will be to stay healthy.   The Panthers are keeping RB Jonathan Stewart on the sidelines right now to rest and recuperate from an ankle injury.  We already lost a starting cornerback.   So far-- besides our star receiver Kelvin Benjamin before the season started-- that's the only major injury to our team.    We need a completely healthy team from here on out to be able to make a run at the Super Bowl.

BUCKLE UP FOR THE PLAYOFFS

   Okay--- hold on-- the next couple of weeks will be somewhat of a downer for me.  I'm hoping that the Panthers' focus is better than mine.   I'm ready for the playoffs to start-- today.  But we will have to wait until January 17 or 18.    Right now, it looks as if we will play the Vikings, Seahawks, or Redskins--- based on who wins the Wild Card playoff games on January 10 / 11.

     Keep your seatbeat buckled and we will soon start the ride of our lives--- to Super Bowl 50.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Giant Game

     For some, today's game between the Carolina Panthers and the New York Giants wanes in importance compared to many of the games already played, and a few yet to be played, this season. Our team has already clinched a playoff berth, and won the NFC South division title for the third straight year.   Then there are some others who think today's game is of supreme importance---because we can keep our undefeated season hopes alive.    A victory today will match the Miami Dolphins' 14-0 regular season of 1972.

      Both opinions would be wrong.   Today's game --IS-- important, but NOT because of the possibility of achieving a perfect season.   No--- today's game is all about The Turf.   We are playing for a seldom--discussed, but all--important topic---  Home Field Advantage.   The Panthers already own ONE home playoff game.   But if they win today against the Giants, they could also play the NFC Championship Game in Charlotte.  A huge difference, considering the alternative might be going on the road to Green Bay, Seattle, or Arizona--- all long distances from home.

    And it would be nice if this was a throw--away game for the Giants.   Even though sometimes losing teams play for the pride factor, this game means even more for them.  Though they have a losing record of 6-7, they are locked in a three--way tie for the division lead (and a playoff spot) with the Redskins and Eagles.  And unlike a few other teams, the Giants can ONLY make the playoffs by winning their division. Their record will not justify a wild card spot.

    YES--- today is a Giant Game.

    Let me do some catching up with you.  Over the past four games, the Panthers have raised both heads and eyebrows--- while maintaining a dominating defense ranked 3rd in the NFL, Cam Newton and the energized Panthers offense have also averaged 39 points per game to overtake Arizona and New England as the Highest Scoring team in the league.   The Panthers have scored 411 points this season, while giving up only 243 to opposing teams.  This is an amazing feat, considering the Panthers have ALWAYS been considered a defense--minded kind of a team.   I don't think anything has really changed-- the team still emphasizes defense, but our offense has come into its own this season.    But this is especially amazing, since they have done this without our top receiver, Kelvin Benjamin--- some fans might also mention, without our team's franchise leading rusher, DeAngelo Williams, who went to Pittsburgh in the off season.

    The offense's late surge notwithstanding, let's also NOT forget our defense, who, after giving up 38 points to the Saints, bounced back and registered their first shutout of the season, 38--0, against their arch-rival division opponent  Atlanta Falcons.

    By the way, cheers to Bene Benwikere, Carolina's CB, who started most of the team's games this season, before breaking his leg in the Falcons game.   Here's hoping that we will escape any future major injuries for the rest of the season.   Late--season injuries have always been a "show--stopper" for teams contending for a title.    And here's also hoping the rest of the secondary can step up to help in his absence.

    More after the game today.


PANTHERS vs NY GIANTS
Today @ 1pm


Monday, November 30, 2015

And Then-- There Was ONE

       Earlier this week, the magic number was 11---- 11--0.    
But now-- this week-- there is a NEW magic number--- ONE.


    You see--- this weekend, HISTORY was made in the NFL.  ______________________________________
     First of all, the Carolina Panthers became part of an elite group of teams--- just a handful--- who have started the season 11--0.  The eventual promise of an undefeated season seemed all the more attainable.  Five more games and we are in a select group of THREE-- with the 1972 Miami Dolphins and the 2007 New England Patriots.

    History was made again on Sunday when the Broncos played this year's version of the Patriots in the snow at Denver and beat them in overtime, 30--24, giving New England its first loss of the season, and making CAROLINA the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL.

NO MEASURING STICK
    This is a prestigious, and also precarious, position for an NFL team.  On the one hand, we have made history.   We have NOT only broken all kinds of team franchise records, but now we are in the NFL history books as well.   But at the same time, we no longer have a measuring stick to gauge our progress.   It was good to look at the Cincinnati Bengals or the New England Patriots and say, "They may be undefeated, but --we-- are better than they are at  (fill--in--the--blank)".  

     But maybe having ourselves as our only measuring stick isn't such a bad idea.   I've heard the Panthers coaches and players saying that they were not satisfied by being undefeated-- they still feel they can be a better team, and want to improve each and every game.   Now, we no longer have someone else that we may look over our shoulders and wonder about.   It becomes a matter of fulfilling our destiny as a team.   That will only happen as each player fulfills his own potential as a player and member of the team.   

    It's no longer (if it ever was) a thing of trying to keep up with the Joneses (or the Patriots) but about being the (to use a cliche) "best we can be".  It seems that Destiny is calling our name and number this year.   If we blow it-- it will be just because of THAT-- we will beat ourselves before anyone else is able to do it.   I'm hoping that I'm right in believing that each Panther player and coach believes in the team and understands we cannot look ahead or get lackadaisical, or begin to pat ourselves on the back for-- well-- accomplishing "nothing."  Being undefeated in the regular season will get you lots of accolades and applause--- but no trophy.

$2.5 Million to a Loyal Fan
    On a more personal level, if you were half as good of a loyal Panthers fan as you think you are, you would also be a rich man (or woman) right now.    The Super Bowl odds for the Panthers was 50--1 back in the preseason.   If you had emptied your bank account, and mortgaged your house, a $50,000 investment would have brought you a cool $2.5 million.    All I can do is keep reminding myself that "the love of money is the root of all evil"  and that we can't take it with us.  

   I don't know about you--- but this season is somewhat of a new, exciting twist-- and  I'm finding myself spending every possible free moment looking at anything Panther--esque.   "Panthers Huddle" and "Panthers Game Day" are both locked in on my DVR schedule.    I check the Observer Sports pages every chance that I get, or look up their "Panthers Insider" online.    I listen to ESPN and tune in to watch the entire Pre--Game show.   It's like a fantasy sports world for us Panthers fans.   I had a Redskins fan tell me not to get "too snobby" about my Panthers.   YEP-- he's right.   We can get a little TOO caught up.

Looking Back with a Laugh at Losing Years
     It might pay us all a favor to go and pull out an old VHS tape or two of the Panthers' inaugural 1995 season, or maybe 2001 (1--15 record), ones when they were struggling just to get a first down, much less a winning season or a playoff berth. 

     Maybe we got a bit spoiled when in our second year ('96) we went all the way to the NFC Championship.   But we lost.   All of our successes have been short--lived.   We've been in the playoffs six times (1996, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2013, 2014) and lost our last game six times.   One year we made it to the Super Bowl (in 2003).   Three times we made it to the NFC Championship (1996, 2003, 2005).   I think the last three trips to the playoffs have been especially disappointing, at least as a fan.   Last year may have been an exception, only because we barely got into the playoffs, winning our division with a losing record.

     Hey-- let's end on a positive note.  This is a different year.  Things to be truly thankful for---
  •  We're undefeated (yay!) --- 11--0--- (a Panthers franchise record)
  • We will no doubt win our NFC South Division title for the third straight season (another Panthers-- and NFC record)
  • We will have at least one Home playoff game--- and chances are good that we will play ALL of our playoff games at home this year
  •  We are relatively injury--free.  Hopefully we will stay that way.
  •  As much as we are excited for the Panthers and this amazing season, let's remember that it --IS-- just a game.  Let's remember to put God and Family first-- and not get so caught up in our team that we forget everything else that is important in our lives. 
   The team will be heading down to New Orleans this week to face the Saints at the SuperDome in front of a home crowd of 75,000 screaming fans.   Hopefully, we will continue our modus operandi of getting points on the board early and dominating the opposing quarterback.   It doesn't hurt anything that the Saints defense is next to last in the NFL, giving up over 400 yards and 30 points per game.

Stay tuned for more Panthers blogs--- 
as we finish strong and head to the Playoffs !

PANTHERS PAC-MAN

   Back in the 70's and 80's, there was no Internet and Video Games were the craze.  There were home versions and there were video gamerooms in most malls and theaters.   One of the most popular games was PacMan.   As I was thinking about how dominating the Panthers defense has been this season and especially in recent games, the thought of a Panthers Pac--Man came to mind.   You might also call it "Quarter Bac--Man"--- some of you younger readers may NOT appreciate this as much--- but there's probably a Smart Phone app for PacMan and maybe some computer nerd will come up with a Panthers version.   For now--- this is all I've got.



Sunday, November 29, 2015

TARGET PRACTICE

CAROLINA PANTHERS
TARGET PRACTICE

QB DREW BREES
New Orleans Saints

_______________________________


Panthers Rolling Snake Eyes


Panthers Beat the Cowboys
   The Carolina Panthers are on a much--deserved 'mini--bye" week, with ten days off  following their Thanksgiving Day massacre of the Dallas Cowboys.   But don't be surprised if our team is working harder than ever during this 'vacation'.   They seem to be resolved not to be satisfied until ALL of their team goals are met this season.   

    They are a perfect 11--0.   Although almost no one expected this kind of a season-- or record --so far, more and more people--- including professional sports analysts --- are getting on board the Panthers bandwagon.

 BEST CHANCE? _________________________________
 
Rolling Along
      Prior to the season's start, Carolina's odds were 50 to 1 to win the Super Bowl.  This week, the Panthers began to garner the respect they rightfully deserve as they took over the top spot from the New England Patriots.  Yes-- according to the oddsmakers, our team has the BEST chance to make it to the Big Game.


     A Falcons loss to the Vikings today will give the Panthers a playoff berth, and also make them the NFC South Champion for the third straight year.  We head down to face the Saints next weekend in a game that many would say means nothing.   But it is far from that to the Panthers.  From here on out, Carolina will be playing for homefield advantage, pride, and history.   Only two other teams have finished the regular season undefeated--- and only one--- the 1972 Dolphins-- finished the entire season unblemished.

    And while we're speaking of the Saints,  the Panthers have barely squeaked through a few of their past ten wins, just beating the Colts,  Seahawks and--- the Saints.    Last game, it was 27--22 at home in Charlotte.  This time, we play in front of 75,000 screaming Saints fans.   This trip to the Big Easy may not be all that easy as the Saints' Drew Brees is back from injury--- he was not playing in the previous game.

--> PLEASE TAKE THE PANTHERS POLL -->
Will the Panthers Make It to the Super Bowl?

IMPOSSIBLE TO BEAT? ____________________________
   It's only been the past four games that Carolina has begun to show a more complete and balanced  team, with the offense beginning to pick up steam and carry its weight, along with a dominating defense that is in the Top Ten in all defensive categories.   The Panthers are third in the NFL in scoring, averaging over 30 points per game, while having the third--rated overall defense in the league, which give up only about 88 yards per game rushing, and 18 points..

   Over the last four games, the Panthers have outscored their opponents (Packers, Titans, Redskins, Cowboys) by 141--69, or an average of 35--17, a winning margin of 18 points per game.

Dominating Defense
    Certainly,  several Panthers can be singled out for their amazing plays against the Cowboys. Luke Kuechly's two interceptions.   His and Kurt Coleman's returns for touchdowns.  The consistent play of offensive players Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton

    Media and sports outlets are always looking to praise individuals, and point the spotlight on how they have singlehandedly dominated a sport or led their team to a championship.  Cam Newton  is a prime candidate for the NFL MVP award this year, and is featured on the cover of the current Sports Illustrated magazine.   He definitely deserves the recognition, and the Panthers would probably not be undefeated without him, and several other star players.

    But the Big Story is the emergence of the Panthers team this year.  Not just the TALENT of the team.   Newton himself has remarked that the Panthers may NOT be the most talented team in the NFL, but they may be the BEST team.  Veteran Panthers players have remarked that they feel a different, more powerful dynamic among this year's locker room and players.

    We've had great teams before--- the 1996 NFC Champions, led by the legendary Sam Mills. The 2003 Super Bowl team, with Jake Delhomme and Steve Smith.   Both of these teams, as well as others, show promise to go down as some of the greatest Panthers teams in their brief but storied history.   But the 2015 version may surpass them all-- it's not just the undefeated season (so far), it's not just their dominance during the past few games.   It's more of the feel of this year's team.   

    They seem to have a unity and strength that is impossible to beat.   And-- so far-- it has been.  ______________________________________
REMAINING SCHEDULE

--> PLEASE TAKE THE PANTHERS POLL -->
Will the Panthers Make It to the Super Bowl?