Necessary Roughness, Week 15: First Place Panthers!
Whew!! What was I thinking last week when I proclaimed that the Panthers had turned the corner and were on their way to a Super Bowl appearance? I should have known that such a premature and illogical prediction would immediately be jinxed by the cruel hands of fate. And sure enough, not two hours after I submitted that column, Cam Newton goes and flips his truck damn near off a bridge in uptown Charlotte. The obvious joke here is, “Wow, another Cam Newton turnover,” but let it be known that I’m happy as hell that Cam is OK. I saw the pictures, and things could have really turned out much worse. But what the hell is a multimillionaire professional athlete doing driving a ’98 Dodge pickup truck? That should be a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. Somebody make this clown buy a decent whip. Hell, I’ll loan him my Honda CR-V. There’s nothing safe or cool about driving an old ass pickup that’s been modded out to look like a monster truck.
But sometimes bad luck strikes at the most fortunate of times. Cam was listed as inactive Sunday because of a back injury he sustained in the accident, but the Panthers weren’t sweating too hard. They were playing the two-win Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nothing about the game was particularly pretty or entertaining. In fact at times, it was downright hard to watch. But props to Derek Anderson for coming in and playing an efficient game, and the defense for making stops when they needed to. Carolina squeaked out a win and guess what… At 5-8-1 the Carolina Panthers are, at least until tonight, in first place in the NFC South.
As much as things have taken a turn for the positive down here in Charlotte, NC, the exact opposite is going on up in Philadelphia. What started as a promising season full of playoff certainty has now devolved into a dire situation where the Eagles may not even land a wild card spot. Last night was really a must-win for Philly and Dallas. The Cowboys were impressively resilient last night, overcoming the Eagles’ offensive onslaught and hanging on for that win. Dallas proved to me that they are the best team in the NFC East right now. That said, it will be a shame if a good team like the Eagles misses the playoffs. I feel a little guilty knowing that they could potentially be sitting at home watching a team like my Panthers host a playoff game, but I ain’t apologizing. Go Panthers!!
Yesterday also provided a couple other storylines. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers had a hell of a time with the Buffalo Bills’ defense. In fact, it was statistically the worst game of Rodgers’ career. It’s not time for Packer nation to fret too much, as I think they will get back on track next week against the Bucs, but for the time being, Green Bay’s hopes of an NFC North championship are in jeopardy. Quietly, the Detroit Lions just keep on winning games. Meanwhile, things continued to spiral downward in San Francisco. In what appears to be the end of the Jim Harbaugh era, the Niners will officially be out of the playoff picture this postseason. At 7-7, it’s obviously been a disappointing year for this team. The defense never really achieved the dominant form it had exhibited the last couple years, and the book on Colin Kaepernick was clearly read cover to cover by opposing defenses. It will be interesting to see how this team moves forward after the season. Arizona, on the other hand, has clinched a playoff berth. The odds this team has overcome to get to this point are mindboggling. But they just know how to win games. They are extremely well coached, and seem to be able to adapt to every situation they are faced with. I still have doubts that they can keep it up, especially with the QB injuries, but I’m rooting for this team, at least until they play the Panthers in the playoffs.
Tonight the Saints head up to Chicago for a frigid Monday night showdown. I NEED Chicago to win this game so the Panthers can hang onto first place in the NFC South. This will probably be a horrible, potentially high-scoring game; New Orleans’ matador style run defense could give up a big game to Matt Forte, but as long as the Bears’ defense keeps Drew Brees from getting off to a fast start, and Jay Cutler plays like he actually gives a damn, I think Chicago can win this game. Go Bears!