I will not make mention of 2010, of lame-duck coaches, or of Camtastic Newton (well, maybe a few times). I will not bother with front lines, defensive lines, or Gambles. And most importantly, I will try not to make anymore terrible jokes using player names. From this point on, I will Gettis ready for the (maybe-it-will-maybe-it-won't) NFL 2011 Season. Jump into the huddle...
Before the blah-blah, here's the who-ha:
A terribly scary schedule, right? There will be times to prove the nay-sayers wrong, and there will be times to prove the nay-sayers right. That is a sentence taken sourly, but it is a sentence that only 49 players (those who are active) can define. Something of comfort is that during the most important time of the season (the beginning, when we get to figure out who is what on this roster), that of the first nine games, six will be played in the Bank of America stadium. With that said, let me break down our schedule game-by-game (I will not predict scores, as that is, in my opinion, a waste of energy at this time).
A foe we have played many times in the past 11 years (10 times, to be exact) will look for a quick start after their uncertain 5-11 season of 2010. It was not two years ago when Arizona won their division, but would eventually lose to the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional game (Saints would later go on to play Minnesota in the NFC Championship game, then defeat Peyton Manning's Colts in the SuperBowl). This is a team very much similar to the Panthers, spoken more of as a dart board for NFL leading teams than an actual contender. The Quarterback position is in the air as Derek Anderson is thought to be on his way out, and the newcomer John Skelton isn't thought of at all.
I can expect a Panthers win, and I cannot think of a better game to bring Cam Newton into the NFL (the Bills would be too easy of a gimme). Stand-out Cardinals include Defensive End Darnell Dockett, Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and Linebacker Joey Porter. If the Cardinals acquire QB Kevin Kolb from Philly Eagles (or Kyle Orton from Denver; both of which Arizona will make a full-wallet attempt at), which is expected in some corners of the blog-world, then this game could get much more interesting. In the end, though, I envision the Panthers offense to be able to eat up more time than last year's offense, and the defense to play a great game on the line. The only worry would come in the Kolb/Fitzgerald duo, as the Panthers do not have a reliable cornerback of Fitzgerald's level.
And not to be forgotten is Arizona's own soon All-Pro cornerback, Patrick Peterson. If Steve Smith is lost to free agency, then this game could get even MORE interesting. Because of the gap in free agency and the unknown quality of Rob Chudzinski's offense, a concern must lay in all Panther fans' hearts. But with all said, I still believe this is a game that the Panthers will win.
Week 2 - Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers
I can't say much about this game. I would love to focus on Carolina Panther players who could come up big in this game, but you cannot predict with a straight face that your team coming off a 2-14 season will beat the reigning SuperBowl champions. Stand-out players (that we might not know of) include OT Chad Clifton, CB Nick Collins, and RB Ryan Grant.
If in any game, I hope Rob Chudzinski throws some strange, beautiful plays out in this game. It's an expected lose, so go out and try some new things with your new quarterback. This is a great, great defense and winning in the air will not come easily. If you want to beat the Packers, you must have a strong... no, a near invincible running game. What Roethlisberger lacks in instant mobility, Cam Newton proves to have. I would be weary that this is a rookie quarterback who has only played college-level defenses, but that should not stop Chudzinski from having some fun with his greatest variable.
One last comment: This will be the test for the Panthers front line. Not the pre-season games (which you can find listed here: http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d81f36ce3/article/bearsrams-game-set-to-kick-off-2011-preseason-schedule). I hope there is a back-up plan in place (as we know, Rivera is the King of Back-up Plans), beacuse I cannot trust Otah for not even two games. Maybe this game won't be the front line's test, but Otah's. No matter how I spit it out, we need to know during this game whether investments have paid off, or whether we've been carrying a dead donkey on our backs.
Game 3 - Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers
Let's get away from the Newton/Gabbert jibber jabber. I'd rather talk about one of the other Big Cats (a title which should be for the Panthers, considering a panther would tear up a jaguar...), Maurice Jones-Drew. This is a running back I would want on my team, whether that be in the National Football League or in a tag-team wrestling match. There is talk one the Jaguar blog (http://www.bigcatcountry.com/) that maybe MJD should levy a bit of the load on Rashad Jennings, an up-and-coming running back. Perhaps give him some carries and use him as trade-bait the following year. I say "nay", for two reasons: the life of a running back in this league is shorter than most other positions, and when you're as talented as Jones-Drew is, you take everything that comes your way (in his case, over 1300 yards in 2010). Bruises and bones aside, you make sure it's you leading the team. Also, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a fine team, and the last three games of the 2010 season serve as a great lesson: no matter your place in the division, no matter your score, you play until you are either holding crutches, or holding a SuperBowl ring.
If game 2 is a test for our front line, this is a test for our defensive line. David Gerrard is a very capable quarterback, mobile like a cheetah and large like a lion (the feline family is complete!). With all this said, though, I don't see this game being out of Carolina's hands. The wide receviers aren't the threat such as Carolina's men (though Mike Thomas is a notable player, who made this historic play: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRLiGb5Li00), and I would also take the Carolina linebackers any day over the Jaguars'. Stand-out players include CB Rashean Mathis, LB Daryl Smith, and of course the elite TE Mercedes Lewis.
I see the Arizona game of week 1 to be the most-winnable game of the season, and I would ask anyone to think twice if they believe Carolina can march right over the Jaguars. This will be a till-the-last-five-minutes-of-the-fourth-quarter kind of game, with great offensive strides met by immovable defensive stands. In my opinion, I believe this and the week 11 game at Detroit to be the most exciting of the season (out of conference).
Game 4 - Carolina Panthers at Chicago Bears
I am not too scared of the Week 2 match-up against the SuperBowlers, in all honesty. It could be a time to show people how fierce our young crew is, and also a time to reveal a new, unique offense that Carolina has never seen. I liken this game to a young man who has just dumped his so-so girlfriend and found a beautiful Brazilian virgin, and is ready to show her off to his peers. The terrible analogy aside, that Green Bay game might be the highlight of 2011.
Or it could be a passing cloud among a nasty thunderstorm.
No matter what it is, I do not fear the Green Bay Packers.
The Chicago Bears, though... this is a team that is not hungry. They are starved. They have been portrayed less than who they are, under the limelights of the Packers, Eagles, and Vikings. Jay Cutler is not going to demonstrate his ability this upcoming season, he will prove it. I believe that the offensive line of the Chicago Bears must be shored up, because Jay Cutler is a tough, tough quarterback. I see Cutler as alike to Jim McMahon; restricted by his environment and thought as a passive, emotionless football player. This is contrary to belief (as McMahon proved by coming to Halas Hall for the first time with a beer in hand, after the Bears drafted him fifth overall in the 1982 draft), as I think Cutler just doesn't have the platform that Tony Romo or Eli Manning have (or, strangely, that Michael Vick has despite his history). I would love to keep up the McMahon/Cutler comparison, because after all the struggles and after a heart-breaking, injured ending to the 1984 season, McMahon broke out the upcoming season and gained the love of the media.
Stand-out Players include basically the entire Chicago starting roster. Like Cutler, this team is under the radar. They have built up a great foundation and need only a few tweaks, and a few attitude adjustments. I think there is a lot of anger for Julius Peppers, but I will not doubt the man's heart, and his desire to win everything in one season. Bears Running Back Matt Forte is the real deal (though I would take MJD any day of the week) with 1000 yards running, 500 yards receiving in 2010. It will be key to stop him before the burners turn on, especially on Soldier Field.
For real; Stand-out Players include TE Greg Olsen, veteran OL Olin Kreutz, and two of the best in game, LBs Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.
As stated, I am not scared of the Green Bay Packers. We're all supposed to, but I see them simliar to the New Orleans Saints, in that success will be hard to come by when teams won't be blindsided by your ferocity. The Chicago Bears could go far, and I see them playing the Atlanta Falcons in the play-offs at some time, in a game that will decide who goes to the SuperBowl.
I would love to continue, but I've been working on this for three hours already (while at work!) and need to rest. I'm not sure I will be able to get to it tomorrow (Sunday the 10th) because I will be celebrating early in the day the US Womens game against Brazil. I think EVERYONE should watch that game! With that said, I will be back throughout this next week to build this post up. Keep checking back! And PLEASE, if anyone has opinions about the schedule/games, then not only leave a comment, but write your own FanPost! No need to go as in-depth as I have, just give us something to chew! :P Hope I've done the Panther family well!
*Sunday Morning - got in game 4! Really wanted to get to this before the festivities of Sunday begin! Happy drowning to those who are likewise celebrating! Watch the US Ladies today!