The Carolina Panthers are 1-4, last in the NFC South, and are ranked 27th in the league in rushing yards allowed. This is no way to start a season, but I bring you good news, my friend: change is upon us. The next chapter for the Carolina Panthers starts Sunday.
Last weekend I took a trip up to Beech Mountain, N.C. The trees were changing, the weather was much cooler, and the night seemed to come much earlier. As I sat out on the patio of the house overlooking the view of the mountains, I thought about my life and what all the past year had meant as we head into the waning months of 2011. I thought about all the different times of the year and what they mean, and I thought about the fall months that are usually saturated in change. I thought about the autumn months that are the transition from the summer to the winter – the longer nights, the festivals, the soon to be holidays – but most of all the changes that fall brings. For those of you who have never been, the mountains of North Carolina are a great place to get away and reflect. Well, that change is here for the Carolina Panthers as well.
Sunday, the Panthers take a road trip (they are actually taking a bus instead of flying this year) down to Atlanta to take on a Falcon team that quite honestly has not lived up to the hype. The Falcons won the NFC South last year before losing to the Super Bowl-winning Packers in the playoffs. They were a team that many thought would repeat as division champs and improve on their 13-3 record from last season. At 2-3, they already have as many losses as they did last year, and they have lost Julio Jones, who was pretty much their entire draft, for at least a few weeks to injury. They rank near the bottom of the league in defense, and they have been outscored 78-46 in the second half so far this season.
Enter in a Panther team that is downright hungry for its second win of the season, a team that has been able to hang with some of the heavyweights of the NFL, only to come away just a little short. Carolina seems to be a team on the rise, where Atlanta is clearly on the decline. The Panthers have adopted a philosophy of taking it to the air: they rank 4th in the NFL in passing, which doesn’t bode well for the Falcons 29th ranked passing defense. Atlanta has been a bitter rival over the years, and the two losses last year (both 31-10) can’t sit well in the stomachs of the veteran Cats. Throw in the fact that Cam Newton grew up College Park, GA, which is right outside of Atlanta, and I expect nothing more than a win tomorrow. Not only do I see a win tomorrow, but I feel an entire new era starting for the Panthers. I see Carolina turning this season around and winning another seven games to finish 8-8. The time for change is now, the equinox is upon us, and for Carolina – like Michael Jackson once said – it’s time to take a look in the mirror and make a change.
For any of the doubters out there, I want to take a trip down memory lane. In 2001 the Panthers went a dismal 1-15. After that season, then-coach George Seifert was fired and the Panthers selected Julius Peppers with the number two pick in the draft. The next year Peppers went on to become NFL defensive rookie of the year. The team under new head coach John Fox went 7-9 in the 2002 season. The next year in 2003 the Carolina Panthers went 11-5. Some of you may remember this season because the Panthers also won three straight playoff games to make it to the Super Bowl and were literally a kickoff out of bounds away from winning it. Now let’s fast forward a little bit to the 2010 season, where they finished 2-14. The next year the Panthers take a game-changer with the number one draft pick, they have a brand new coach – hmmm, perhaps history is repeating itself.