Let's be honest with ourselves for a few moments by admitting that the odds are stacked heavily against the Panthers this Sunday. We all know that the defending Super Bowl champions are coming to town coming off of another impressive win against our own division foe. In fact, the Packers haven't had a setback since losing an away game to the Patriots, 31-27, in week fifteen of last year. If you're counting, the win against the Saints last week was their seventh in a row against a quality opponent. Let's be honest here, the Panthers are primed to become the Packers eighth victim. With that being said, there isn't another opponent I would rather the Panthers play the second week of this season than the defending champs. Allow me to explain.
We all know that J-Rich and M-Hurn made wholesale changes last season when they allowed most of the coaching staff to walk away and promptly proceeded to hire an innovative new coaching staff. Oddly enough, there was little time to mourn the death of the Panthers old regime and it's equally deceased conservative style of play because the 2011 draft was just around the corner. Don't get me wrong, the personal pain of losing Uncle Fox after all of those years was real, but drafting Cam Newton was so much of a distraction that I almost forgot the strain that existed in our relationship over those final few years. Shortly after the draft, I began to analyze why it was so easy for me to hate the man whom I once loved so dearly. In fact, the hate in my heart is what led me to the place where I was blaming myself for the chasm that existed between us. How could I turn my back on him after all the good times we shared together? There was no denying that he had taken me(and you) to places that neither of us had ever been before. I almost lost it, but as any (in)sane individual would do, I sought the help of a shrink.
I'm happy to report that, after enduring a grueling two months of intense therapy and watching us lose so gracefully and spectacularly in the opening game to the Cardinals, I'm in a place of total appreciation for what Uncle Fox ultimately gave me(and you). Sure, he threw in the towel that final year and so did we, the fans. But, guess what? Uncle Fox didn't forget us in his will after all. He bequeathed to us some parting gifts that we can truly be grateful for. Namely, Rivera, Chudzinski, McDermott, Cam Newton, a rejuvenated Steve Smith, and a trust fund to ensure we are taken care of for years to come. Now back to reality.
The reality of the moment is that the Packers will be looking to make a statement on the road to the rest of the league in Bank of America Stadium against the upstart Panthers this Sunday. Of course, the Panthers will be attempting to make a statement of their own: This is our house and we don't care who you are or what you've done. If you look on paper, it will tell you that the Packers have the edge in many position categories, including quarterback, secondary, and offensive line. I guess you could say the linebackers and defensive line could be determined a wash, especially considering the difference in the Panther's 4-3 and the Packers 3-4 defenses. Of course, if you compared their front seven to ours, I would be inclined to give the edge to the Packers, particularly considering the recent departure of Beast.
Ultimately, the timing of this game couldn't have been more perfect, because it will be a chance for Rivera, the players, and the fans to measure how near or far we are from being a playoff team. The Panthers have the chance to prove to everyone and themselves that they belong in the top half of the league by giving the defending champs a scare. I don't believe we can beat the Packers unless we win the battle of the great equalizer: Turnovers. If the Panthers somehow win this game, the players will have all the evidence they need to believe they are an elite team and will compete for a playoff berth this year. If they fall victim to a blowout loss, some fans will come crashing down from last week's high and the Panthers will struggle to win six games. I believe we will lose in a fairly close game that will be very entertaining to watch. Either way, I have a feeling that Uncle Fox will be looking down on us(from the mile high city of course) with great interest to see how far those gifts will take us. You won't be forgotten.