Saturday, December 26, 2015

Stretch Run


    "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.


  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.


  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.


   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.

Today @ 1pm