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We're just bubbling with a refreshing taste of optimism

An optimist never thinks the bag of Cheetos purchased from a vending machine may get snagged on those wire wheels that dole out the finger-coloring treats.

Optimists have Christmas in July parties, trust airport sushi and believe people when they say, "This will just take a moment."

Optimists look at the NFC South standings, see four teams with 0-1 records and think it's been a while since the Panthers have been tied for the division lead this late in the season.

For a Panthers team that lost its opener, giving up a fourth-quarter punt return for a touchdown and failing to score on five tries from 11 yards away in the closing minutes, there's been an undeniable sense of optimism around town. That's a reminder of how grim things had been. It was what it was.

Part of it is Cam Newton. You've probably heard of him by now. One week in, he seems to have fixed everything but the local economy and that bare patch in my front yard where I can't get grass to grow.

It's refreshing to be optimistic again. Fans want a reason to believe, even if it means believing you're not going to call a draw play on third-and-12.

Even if you're not yet optimistic, you're curious. Last season, even curious lost.

Not this season, which is a win in itself.

GREEN BAY at CAROLINA: Do you believe in miracles? Well, Disney made a movie about that hockey team. As for this one ... Packers 32, Panthers 20.

SEATTLE at PITTSBURGH: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on his team's woeful performance against Baltimore: "I think the people that know and compete in this league understand that there is a fine line between drinking wine and squashing grapes. Obviously, last weekend we were grape-squashers." I'll drink to that. Steelers 33, Seahawks 23.

OAKLAND at BUFFALO: With both teams picking up solid road wins to open the season, I'm having a '70s flashback. Dude, let's play some Space Invaders and Jethro Tull. Nice sideburns, too. Bills 27, Raiders 23.

ARIZONA at WASHINGTON: After months of wondering when someone was going to get something substantial done in Washington, no one figured it would be Rex Grossman who did it. Funny place, D.C. Redskins 28, Cardinals 13.

TAMPA BAY at MINNESOTA: On a Sunday when the league produced more yardage than any other Sunday in history, Vikes quarterback Donovan McNabb passed for 39 yards. That's like having celery on all you can eat day at Ben and Jerry's. Bucs 30, Vikings 13.

JACKSONVILLE at NEW YORK JETS: Rex Ryan's boys are hoping they'll catch the Jags looking ahead to their visit to Charlotte next weekend. Jets 38, Jags 16.

CHICAGO at NEW ORLEANS: Remember Julius Peppers? Two sacks and a fumble recovery last weekend. Saints 29, Bears 21.

BALTIMORE at TENNESSEE: Help yourself. Ravens 23, Titans 3.

KANSAS CITY at DETROIT: Two years ago, these teams combined to go 4-28. One of them is much better now. The other one plays in Kansas City and accounted for all four of those 2009 victories. Lions 28, Chiefs 20.

CLEVELAND at INDIANAPOLIS: Was it just me or did Colts coach Jim Caldwell have one of those "Am I back at Wake Forest" looks on his face last Sunday watching his Peyton Manning-less team get clobbered? Anyone else see that? Colts 23, Browns 17.

DALLAS at SAN FRANCISCO: Brisket doesn't get cooked as thoroughly as Tony Romo has this week in the great country of Texas - and they still love brisket in Dallas. Romo, not so much, not at the moment anyway. Cowboys 29, 49ers 26.

CINCINNATI at DENVER: John Fox said he didn't hear Broncos fans chanting "Tebow, Tebow, Tebow!" on Monday night. That's his story and he's sticking to it. Broncos 33, Bengals 24.

SAN DIEGO at NEW ENGLAND: The NFL record for most combined passing yards in one game is 933, set four days ago by the Patriots and the Dolphins. Hope it was written in pencil. Patriots 44, Chargers 38.

HOUSTON at MIAMI: The Dolphins are like Bruce Jenner - not what they used to be. Texans 36, Dolphins 20.

PHILADELPHIA at ATLANTA: Michael Vick. Matt Ryan. Enough said. Falcons 27, Eagles 24.

ST. LOUIS at NEW YORK GIANTS: Evidently, it's still too early for flex scheduling to begin. Giants 23, Rams 20.

Last week: 8-7

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