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Panthers look to finish season on a high note

2 January 2010 Leave a comment
The Panthers are hoping to finish the season on a 3 game winning streak and with a .500 record as they prepare to finish out this injury plagued campaign with a home game against the NFC South champion New Orleans Saints.

The Panthers have caught fire recently and have played like the team that many thought they would be all season long, but unfortunately it is a case of too little, too late for this squad as they have apparently found their groove under the leadership of 3rd year quarterback Matt Moore, who has started the last 5 games of the season after Jake Delhomme went down with a broken finger in Week 12 against the Jets1.

Moore’s play should at least guarantee that there will be an open quarterback competition in training camp next season, if it doesn’t cement his name in the starting lineup and put Delhomme at either #2 on the depth chart or on another roster.

But, before anyone can worry about next year, there is still one more game to be played. The Panthers hope to close the year with a win to avoid a losing season and to have some momentum to build on for next year. Moore could also use the boost in confidence that would come with a strong outing, as he could use the extra time on the field to help him contend for the starting position next season.

Or, hopefully Moore can prove that once and for all he deserves to be the starter, and he can show that the Panthers knew what they were doing when they signed him 3 years ago as the heir apparent to Delhomme’s position.

That is if Fox will ever admit that it’s time for a change.

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1 – Delhomme has been on IR since December 24.

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Looks like Moore will get another start

10 December 2009 Leave a comment

Nothing has been confirmed yet (because we all know that Fox likes to keep his opponents guessing until the last possible nanosecond), but it appears that Matt Moore will start for Carolina this Sunday against the Patriots because Jake Delhomme is still unable to grip and throw a football1 due to his broken finger.

I hope that Moore gets the start, because I’m anxious to see what he can do against a formidable opponent. The 1-10 (now 1-11) Buccaneers playing without their best CB2 didn’t really give the proper challenge to find out just how good (or bad) Moore is.

Sure, it was a nice way to shake off the rust from riding the bench for 2 years, but now is the time to really evaluate what he has for the future so the front office knows how to handle next year’s draft.

The Patriots will be in a pissy mood after losing to Miami last week, and will be playing at home, where they are 6-0 on the season. Hopefully the Panthers can pick up a much-needed win and move to 6-7 and get some help from a few other teams and get back in the wild card hunt3.

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1 – Not that he could really throw it before.

2 – Aqib Talib

3 – I have to keep my hopes up until they are mathematically out.

Panthers prepare to face Jets

28 November 2009 Leave a comment

Author’s Note: Please notice that I have started using footnotes instead of a * symbol to denote “hey, I want to talk about this more” in my blog. I discovered how to use superscript font with HTML today, so some of the footnotes are probably excessive and will be toned down once I am over the newness of my discovery.

This Sunday, the Panthers will try once again to climb back into playoff contention when they travel to the Meadowlands to take on Dirty Sanchez1 and the New York Jets.

Carolina got some desperately needed help from the Broncos on Thanksgiving2, and look to help themselves by defeating the Jets and moving to 5-6 on the season. For the Panthers to have any realistic chance at making the playoffs, they are going to have to win at least 5 of their final 6 games, or will have to rely on several other NFC teams3 to go on losing streaks and end up with sub-.500 records.

The Jets will be a formidable opponent for the Panthers, primarily because they feature a strong running game led by running back Thomas Jones. The Panthers have been noticeably weak in their run defense since losing OLB Thomas Davis to a season-ending ACL injury4 three weeks ago, and teams with strong running games have had success against the Panthers’ defense all season long5.

If the Panthers want any hope of making the playoffs, they must start winning games. It can almost be taken as fact that if they lose to the Jets on Sunday they will have no chance at making the playoffs, because out of their final five games, only one can be considered truly winnable6.

No one knows how the events will unfold on Sunday, but hopefully the Panthers can put another win on the board and get back into the playoff hunt. They’ve come roaring back to make a playoff run in the past7, so it’s not impossible for them to do it one more time.

After all, we don’t call them the Cardiac Cats for nothing.

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1 – Jets QB Mark Sanchez. Dirty Sanchez is explained in graphic detail here.

2 – Denver defeated the Giants 26-6 on Thursday night.

3 – Teams that the Panthers have to pass to get a playoff spot: Giants, Eagles/Cowboys, Packers, Bears, 49ers.

4 – They really haven’t had a great rushing defense all season. They lost Ma’ake Kemoeatu in training camp, and until the acquisition of Hollis Thomas a few weeks ago, haven’t really had a stout-enough defensive line to prevent the run this season.

5 – Atlanta, Dallas, & Miami have had the most success running the football against the Panthers so far this season. The Saints beat them with their passing attack, the Eagles relied on a turnover-laden performance from Jake Delhomme, and the Bills just got lucky and caught the Panthers on a bad day.

6 – Their final five games: Buccaneers, at Patriots, Vikings, at Giants, Saints.

7 – In 2004, the Panthers started 1-7, but won 6 of their final 8 games to finish 7-9 and narrowly missed a playoff spot in the final week of the regular season.

Can the Panthers beat the Saints?

4 November 2009 3 comments

The Panthers are not expected to win this Sunday when they travel to the bayou to take on Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. In fact, they aren’t even expected to make it a close game. The Panthers are 14 point underdogs according to the latest line*, and it doesn’t appear that they will be given much of a chance to win this game by anyone outside of their locker room.

I understand that the Saints have one of the most dynamic offenses in the league, and I understand that Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the game today, but to say that the Panthers won’t even come within two touchdowns in a division game is pushing it (no pun intended) to say the least.

The interesting thing about divisional games in the NFL is that you can throw stats right out the proverbial window — they don’t matter. It doesn’t mean anything that the Saints have one of the best passing offenses in the league, because the Panthers have one of the best passing defenses in the league. I think this game is going to come down to one of the immeasurable statistics — heart. Whichever team steps on the field and decides that they want the game more will win. It’s as simple as that.

If the Panthers want to come out of New Orleans with a 4-4 record and a realistic chance at the playoffs, then they are going to have to step out on the field and play with fire and hunger.  They’re going to have to want it more than New Orleans does, and unless they can do that, they will not win.

Divisional games are different than any other games on the schedule. The teams are so familiar with one another and they know all the strengths and weaknesses. Divisional games really aren’t about game planning — they’re about execution and desire. So if the Panthers want this game like they claim that they do — they are going to have to earn it. We already know the Saints want this game. They want all of them — they’re already talking about going undefeated.

On a side note, the undefeated talk is stupid if you ask me. They haven’t even won half of their games yet. They’re not even guaranteed a .500 season and they’re already talking about the chances of going 16-0? Call me when you get to 12-0, then we’ll talk about you going undefeated — and the talking heads on ESPN aren’t helping matters much either by talking about them having the easiest schedule. It’s not about that, it’s about putting forth their best effort week in and week out, because anyone can beat anyone in the NFL. Well, except for the Browns — they can’t beat anybody. But at least they weren’t talking about Brett Favre for the millionth time, so I really can’t complain too much.

Can the Panthers beat the Saints? Yes, of course they can. Will they? That’s a totally different story, and the ending has yet to be seen. But, stay tuned this Sunday, because it’s bound to be a good show — especially if the Panthers win, because I can’t wait to make fun of “who dat, who dat gon beat dem Saints” in a blog post.

*The Panther Playbook does not endorse illegal gambling.

Game Preview – Panthers vs. Steelers

3 September 2009 Leave a comment

The final game of the preseason for the Panthers will take place tomorrow night in Charlotte when the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers pay a visit to Bank of America Stadium.

We won’t see a lot of action from the starters, but they will probably be on the field for at least one series on each side of the ball, and then it will be backups galore for the remainder of the game.

Most of the players who see action in this game will not make the 53 man roster, but there are a few roster spots that could be decided in this game. One position that will probably have a couple of players battling it out for a spot on the team is punt returner.

Captain Munnerlyn was given the chance to return punts against Baltimore last week (although he only fielded two punts all night because the defense couldn’t stop the Ravens from moving the ball down the field), but we could see Larry Beavers and Mike Goodson fielding punts at some point in the game.

While I would like to see the Panthers get at least 1 win in the preseason, the main goal is to keep the starters healthy to start the regular season against the Eagles, because at this stage of the year the Panthers can’t afford to lose any more key players.

Kickoff is at 8:00 PM in Charlotte.

Categories: Game Previews, Preseason

Game Preview – Panthers vs. Ravens

28 August 2009 Leave a comment

This is it. The preseason game that counts. (Does it really count though?)

Look for the starters to get a lot of playing time tomorrow night against Baltimore. We may even see Steve Smith suit up and play for the first time this year. I don’t look for DeAngelo Williams to get that much playing time though, with him nursing a slight knee injury and already looking in top shape, the Panthers don’t want to risk him getting seriously injured in a meaningless game. So look for Mike Goodson to try and prove his worth against one of the NFL’s toughest run defenses.

I hope the Panthers’ defense actually shows up and plays football tomorrow. I’m tired of seeing the vanilla schemes and no blitzing. I want to see some hard-nosed football. I’ve waited long enough, dang it. Let the defense hit people, please.

Tomorrow’s game will probably be the last chance for a few players to make the roster, and one that I will be watching is Ryne Robinson, who may have lost his spot after his inability to hang on to the ball on a punt return. He will get a chance to win the job, but I really believe his time in Carolina will be over, especially when there are other options at return man who have had a better preseason.

The Ravens have one of the best defensive units in the league, so they will be a great test for the offense to find out where they are this year. Hopefully the first team offense can at least put some drives together and put some points on the board, which against the Ravens is not an easy task to say the least.

Kickoff is at 8:00 in Charlotte.

Categories: Game Previews, Preseason

Game Preview – Panthers @ Dolphins

22 August 2009 Leave a comment

After a disappointing effort in the preseason opener against the Giants, the Panthers will take the field in their 2nd game of the preseason tomorrow night when they take on the Miami Dolphins at Landshark Stadium (or whatever its name is now) in Miami.

It is ironic that the Panthers will be playing a 2nd straight opponent in the preseason that they will face at some point in the regular season (they play the Dolphins on 11/19 and the Giants on 12/27).

The starters will most likely see limited action like they did in the first game, although they will probably play the entire first quarter in this game. I expect the first team to be out of the game by the 2nd quarter, and the back-ups and fringe players will finish out the rest of the game.

I’m interested to see how well the back up QB’s play in this game. Hopefully the OL will give them more time to get off throws so a true evaluation of their abilities can be made, and hopefully they can learn to hold on to the football long enough to sustain drives to give the skill position players some reps.

Steve Smith will be traveling with the team to Miami, but it is still uncertain whether or not he will see any action. He is listed as a “game time decision” as of right now, and I expect him to spend his time on the sidelines cheering his teammates.

There is no reason to put him on the field and subject him to further injury in a meaningless game, especially when it’s Steve Smith – it’s not like he needs to learn how to run routes and catch passes.

DT Marlon Favorite should see a lot of time on the field since he has been out playing Nick Hayden in practice and should get a chance to take over the starting spot that has become vacant due to Kemoeatu’s season-ending injury.

RB Mike Goodson has been fined $7500 by the NFL for his “throat slash” gesture in the first preseason game after he scored a touchdown in the 2nd half against the Giants. I’m sure that this fine, along with the woodshed treatment he got from head coach John Fox, will be enough to ensure that such a gesture doesn’t happen again.

I don’t expect the Panthers to show any unique schemes on either side of the ball, mainly because they play the Dolphins again in the regular season and don’t want to give them any game-plan material when the game actually counts. Look for this to be another vanilla-flavored game for the Panthers.

Categories: Game Previews, Preseason