Carolina Panthers Pre-2009 Prediction: A Product of Too Much Kool-Aid

Wow, when I look back on my preseason prediction of the Panthers’ 2009 schedule of opponenets, I am baffled at my over-confidence in the team!

I must have been drinking an extra large cup of Berry Blue when I wrote this one. Kool-Aid and the rose-colored lenses which I was using to get a glimpse into Carolina’s future turned out to be a devastatingly dangerous combination!

I will now go through each game and critique myself.

Before I continue though, I’ll look at one of my introductory statements leading up to the schedule. This is a sample of what I said before I got too far into my glass of Kool-Aid, and I was pretty much right-on with the overall assesment of the season:

In the end, the Panthers have a tough season ahead of them. In the first three games Carolina jumps right into the frying pan, playing at home against Philadelphia, going on the road to Atlanta in Week Two, and then making a Monday night visit to the Dallas Cowboys in Week Three.

It was beyond that point that my vision became hazy, and the Kool-Aid seeped into my brain, transforming all logical and conservative thinking into delusional visions of grandeur.

Week One: Philadelphia Eagles at Carolina Panthers

I had only picked the Panthers to lose to one team in the first quarter of the season: the Atlanta Falcons. So, I felt pretty confident that this team had what it took to go 3-1 to start the season…I almost went with 4-0 on the first quarter.

The Eagles came in and virtually owned Carolina in every aspect of the game. This is a game I traveled from New Jersey to Charlotte, to watch my Panthers get blown out at home.

You know when you see the first version of a movie and it’s usually the best, then comes the sequel, which usually is okay, and maybe you’ll watch it again when it comes out on video. That would be the loss suffered to the Cardinals in the playoffs. The third release of the movie was worked on during the offseason and it was unbearable to watch.

Eagles 38, Panthers 10

Week Two: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons

Well, this is the game out of the first quarter of the season that I expected the Panthers to lose. A Week One win over the Eagles and a road game to a tough inner-division rival; the Panthers were bound to drop a close one in their second game of the season. Usually, these two teams split the series with the home team generally winning.

So I factored homefield in, I went along with the fan hype and factored in Falcons QB Matt Ryan having a good game. I also liked the way receiver Roddy White had made a name for himself last year, and there is also the unstoppable Michael Turner.

This time I wasn’t disappointed (though I would have preferred to have been proven wrong).

Panthers 20, Falcons 28

Week Three: Carolina Panthers at Dallas Cowboys

I’ll be perfectly honest in why I picked the Panthers to win this game. I simply do not like the Cowboys. Yes, they’re talented. They’re still in the playoffs. They won their division. But I still don’t like them. I guess it’s a matter of jealousy, though few would admit it.

So I topped off my glass of Kool-Aid and said, “well, there’s no way the Panthers will lose to the Cowboys after beating the Eagles, and losing to the Falcons. They’ll be emotionally charged after their loss to a division rival, but if they could beat the Eagles, then they should have no problem with the Cowboys.”

Wow, was I wrong. I was so excited because I would get to see my team on TV (remember, I live in New Jersey). My father being a Giants fan, I figured I would be able to boast about how good my team is and the Giants had better watch out this year.

Panthers 7, Cowboys 21

The Bye Week

I include the Bye Week for a reason, because I had said that where the Bye Week was, well…Here’s the direct quote.

The Panthers wrap up the first quarter of the season against the Redskins after the Bye Week—the Bye Week that early is just stupid for any team.

Yes, the Bye Week that early is stupid for any team…Any team with a winning record and not suffering injuries at key positions and not enduring the woes of a quarterback in a slump.

The Bye Week was good to the Panthers, for sure. It allowed the team to regroup and look at the direction it was headed. I could only hope that results after the Bye would be better than going into it.

Week 5: Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers 

I took the Panthers to win this game as well.

A Redskins team that had a terrible season trying to identify itself, but never found out anything about itself aside from whatever opinions Clinton Portis gave, was the first team to fall victim to the Panthers.

So this is the turning point of the Panthers’ season. I even wrote an article to follow-up that game. I readily admit, that I didn’t cover the Panthers through this medium as much as I did last year, as I was covering them through a different source.

I digress, the Panthers seemed to have found their groove against the Redskins, and life as a fan was looking brighter.

Redskins 17, Panthers 20

To end the first quarter of the season (not counting the Bye Week…Teams don’t “score” during halftime), my prediction was 3-1. The Panthers proved my prediction faulty and incorrect. Carolina was 1-3.

Okay, the Panthers are 1-3, I thought. There’s still three-quarters of a season left–12 games to be exact. This team can lose a few games and still be able to win the division.

Week 6: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The following week Carolina took the show on the road, visiting another division rival, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I gave the Bucs a little more credit than they deserved, even though they did put up a good fight and made a failed attempt at a comeback.

Once again, going with the logic that this is another team the Panthers have split the series with, I gave the Bucs their dignity with a win at home.

Thankfully, I was wrong in that assessment, as the Panthers played a good game, especially when DeAngelo Williams ran the ball.

Panthers 28, Buccaneers 21

Week 7: Buffalo Bills at Carolina Panthers

Carolina has to win this game. There is no way, looking at the Panthers’ roster, that they would ever lose…

Haha, famous last words.

The Panthers’ defense did a decent job at defending the Bills and receiver Terrell Owens, but the Panthers’ offensive playcalling left a lot to be desired, and Jake Delhomme’s turnovers were critical in Carolina’s loss to the Bills.

Bills 20, Panthers 9

Week 8: Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals

I called this game a “return to the scene of the crime.” I didn’t put it in black and white, but I should have.

By this point of the season, media and fans alike were hounding John Fox and his decision to keep Delhomme as the starting quarterback, when the Panthers were a dismal 2-4, and still had a shot at the playoffs.

Fox’s answer was simple and expected. He felt that Delhomme gave this team it’s best chance to win. Analysts on Sirius NFL Radio had even agreed with Fox, stating that A.J. Feeley was not fulltime starter material, and Matt Moore simply didn’t have enough experience to place that kind of weight on his shoulders. I nodded my head in agreement.

I predicted a Panthers win in their game at Arizona, mostly because of their loss of Todd Haley to the Kansas City Chiefs, which was good enough to put a tally in the win column.

Panthers 34, Cardinals 21

 

Week 9: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints

In all honesty, I had discounted the Saints throughout the offseason as a legitimate playoff contender–remove shoe, insert foot in mouth–because I was certain the division race would be between the Falcons and Panthers.

I’ve taken much ridicule and a lot of heat from Saints fans. Some true fans, and I’m sure a lot of bandwagoners, too. I admit, I was wrong.

Here’s another team that the Panthers had a good chance at beating…They almost did, too. If not for a couple of fumbled balls, credit to DeAngelo Williams, the Panthers may very well have beaten New Orleans.

However, I did give the Saints the edge in this one, and predicted a Saints win.

Drew Brees was a master of late game heroics for much of the season, and this game would end no differently.

Panthers 20, Saints 30

At this point of the season, I had predicted the Panthers with a second-quarter record of 2-2; a season combined record of 5-3.

I predicted the record correctly, but I incorrectly identified which teams the Panthers would beat (Buffalo and Tampa Bay). Regardless, my record at the midway point of the season was 3-5.

Week 10: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers

This is the rematch; the game where the series splits and the Panthers go 1-1 against the Falcons.

That prediction was successful. The Falcons and Panthers did not upset my picks at all, in that regard.

Falcons 19, Panthers 28

Week 11: Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers

This was primetime game part two, for the Panthers.

A few weeks prior, Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington had said in an interview that he didn’t want the Panthers to be synonymous wuth a gimmick offense. He didn’t want the team to be identified as a Wild Cat team.

There was no way the Dolphins would come into our house and beat the Panthers with what I referred to as a “high school gimmicky Wild Cat offense.” That was my prediction. To add insult to injury, I also said the Panthers would have that play for breakfast, Tuna for lunch, and Dolphin for dinner.

The Panthers defense will shut down Ricky Williams, and Ronnie Brown would look like a rookie.

The final result, a loss by Carolina, had me adding a generous portion of crow to my already overflowing plate.

Dolphins 24, Panthers 17

Week 12: Carolina Panthers at New York Jets

Well, let’s just go to what I said.

Week 12 should be a relatively easy win for the Panthers, when they travel to East Rutherford, NJ to take on the New York Jets.

On a side note, if the Jets are having a bad season at this point, they will become the New York Rex—word play is just so much fun. This team really shouldn’t give Carolina much of a problem offensively, as they will be starting a rookie quarterback in Mark Sanchez, a player whom I think will do better in his second year in the league.

I was very excited to see this game, since it would be on TV in my viewing market. I was all set, and had the new 32″ HD-TV set up. About 10 minutes into the game, the cable in the complex went out and didn’t come back on until almost halftime of the Sunday night game.

I still think Sanchez will have a better season next year. More crow, please?

Panthers 6, Jets 17

Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers

In this one, I was right on in saying that at this point of the season, the Bucs will be pretty banged up but they’ll be looking to play the role of spoiler to those teams still alive and in the playoff hunt.

The Panthers won this game rather convincingly, once everyone got on the same page.

Buccaneers 6, Panthers 16

For the third quarter of the season, I predicted the Panthers to be 4-0…Instead, they went 2-2, raising their season-long record to 5-7.

Well, they still have a chance at a Wild Card spot if they win out the rest of their games and finish with a record of 9-7.

Week 14: Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots

The Panthers lost to New England, which I figured would happen due to the cold environement and how the Patriots are usually tough to beat at hom in December.

Panthers 10, Patriots 20

Week 15: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers

I called this game a bit of a respite for the Panthers. As it turned out, I was pretty much spot-on.

The Panthers’ run game made the Vikings defense look amateur, while Carolina’s defense reacquainted Brett Favre with sacks, the ground, and an interception.

Vikings 7, Panthers 26

Week 16: Carolina Panthers at New York Giants

Wow. This game I figured to be a lot closer than it turned out to be. I figured this to rematch would go into overtime again, even.

The only funny part is where I mentioned that this time the Panthers would have a third member added to their already lethal tandem…Mike Goodson, whom I am still not sold on.

Maybe he just needs an offseason of conditioning and he’ll show some improvement in 2010.

 The Panthers absolutely dominated the Giants’ defense, and only allowed New York nine points offensively.

Panthers 41, Giants 9

Week 17: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers

Meaningless. That’s what this game amounted to–for the Saints, especially.

For the Panthers it was meaningless in that they had since been taken out of playoff contention when they lost to the Patriots.

New Orleans benched most of their starters, to keep them healthy for a playoff run, complete with homefield advantage throughout.

As a result, the Panthers had very little problem scoring on the Saints as well as defending against them.

My pick was the Panthers.

Saints 10, Panthers 23

The fourth quarter wrapped up for me with a 3-1 record, and an overall 8-8. Not bad, had I stuck with the status quo of a losing season after a winning one, where I said the Panthers would buck the trend of a losing season after a winning one. C’est la vie, as the saying goes. Such is life.

As for my overall record, I predicted the Panthers could finish as good as 12-4, but shouldn’t finish any worse than 10-6. Carolina finished 8-8. 

I stood by my picks anyway, and pulled for Carolina in good times and bad. The biased picks and rooting for my team makes me a fan. But next time I think I will try to look at the schedule from a more objective and logical viewpoint instead of raw emotion and gut feeling…On second thought, that may have beenthe Kool-Aid disagreeing with me.

As for the Kool-Aid, man did I have a stomach ache after drinking what amounted to a pitcher of Berry Blast Kool-Aid.  I won’t do that again. The blue tongue, teeth, and mustache were secondary to the stomach ache.

The rose-colored lenses are a metaphor, but if there is a pair out there, I’d like to know. This way I can say that I literally looked at everything through rose-colored lenses.

Here’s to a better 2010 for the Panthers and their fans.

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