Do you know how rare this is?
All of it, I mean.
The Panthers are on an eight-game regular season winning streak (never has happened). The Panthers have been “flexed” into a Sunday night game with playoff implications out of what used to be a Sunday 1 p.m. game (has happened, but the last time was in 2008 against the New York Giants).
New Orleans and Carolina are both 9-3, meeting in the first bout in a two-game, 15-day, home-and-home series (never has happened).
Me going to Cafe du Monde to load up on coffee and beignets and getting powdered sugar all over myself right before a game at the Superdome (all right, that has happened a few times).
• Look, the Panthers are going to give up yardage Sunday night. No way around it. Drew Brees has thrown for 325 or more yards seven times in his New Orleans career against Carolina. Seven times! You know how many times Cam Newton has thrown for 325 yards or more in his entire career against everybody? Three.
• On the other hand, do you remember that DeAngelo Williams rushed for a franchise-record 210 yards in the season finale at New Orleans a year ago? The Panthers certainly do. I’ve always thought Williams is one of the Panthers players who excels on artificial turf, which accentuates his speed and cutting ability. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get at least 15 carries Sunday.
• One note unrelated to this game: I am thinking about writing a column about some of the kids and families who have gotten a “touchdown football” from Cam Newton at a Panthers game over the past three years. You know what I mean – one of the balls that Newton physically hands to a kid in the end zone after a Panthers score.
As you can imagine, however, no one keeps a list of such families. If you are in one of these families or know of one I could contact to talk about what the ball means to them and so on, please email me at email@example.com.
• OK, on to the prediction. The Saints should win this game, really. They are undefeated at home in 2013. By my totally unscientific measure, I believe they are 10 points better at home than they are on the road. They are coming off an awful loss to Seattle that was a nationally televised embarrassment, and anxious to make up for it. Brees is ridiculously good.
All week I have planned to pick the Saints. And yet that Monday night game keeps giving me pause. I know it was in Seattle, but it was a blueprint. And the Panthers should have Charles Johnson back. And they have a ton of confidence. And I just have a hunch. Could be a bad one. Could be too many beignets. But I’m picking: Carolina 33, New Orleans 29.