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Being exciting at 1-4 isn't enough

At this point, the Carolina Panthers have beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars and beaten up New Orleans Saints safety Roman Harper.

That's a start.

But that's all it is.

Like tank tops on men and Tennessee orange, a 1-4 record doesn't look good on many people and the time's fast approaching when the Panthers need to be more than the most refreshingly entertaining one-win team in the NFL.

In one sense, the Panthers have already exceeded expectations. They're exciting and they're relevant again, and if you don't think that's an unofficial victory, you weren't around here this time last fall when the only thing tougher to sell than Panthers tickets was Eastland Mall.

But the NFL isn't a popularity contest. OK, it is if you're talking about the Cowboys, but it's about winning games and the Panthers haven't quite mastered that yet. They will and next season they'll probably be playing on Sunday night and Monday night because Cam Newton attracts attention like a Kardashian.

Like Tom Petty warbled, the waiting is the hardest part.

Carolina at Atlanta: Ron Rivera is right when he says the Panthers' near misses are going to turn around one day. I'm just not sure Sunday is the day. Falcons 30, Panthers 20.

St. Louis at Green Bay: Let's do some simple math - 5-0 plus 0-4 equals blowout. Packers 41, Rams 14.

Jacksonville at Pittsburgh: Just because it's the Jags, this earns the who cares game of the week honor. Steelers 35, Jags 10.

Philadelphia at Washington: It's nice to know things are getting back to normal in Philadelphia. The Phillies are turning into the Atlanta Braves - a great pitching staff, but a postseason disappointment - and the Eagles are turning into Andy Reid's worst nightmare. Things seemed so good in Philly for a while that fans almost forgot how to boo. Not anymore. Redskins 26, Eagles 21.

San Francisco at Detroit: Just wondering if the Panthers might be next year's version of this year's Lions - if you know what I mean. Lions 31, 49ers 24.

Indianapolis at Cincinnati: Last week, an emailer asked me why I make fun of the Bengals so often. Do they have to ask? Bungles 24, Colts 20.

Buffalo at New York Giants: OK, maybe the Bills really are better than happy hour. If they can win in the Meadowlands...Giants 29, Bills 23.

Cleveland at Oakland: Last week, the Raiders-Houston game was inadvertently omitted from the Forecast. (Inadvertently omitted is a better way to say it than I forgot). However, it was added for later editions of the Forecast (evidently other newspapers run this, which might explain the challenges facing our industry) and I correctly picked the Raiders to win one for Al Davis. You'll have to trust me on this. The Raiders liked it so much they're going to do it again. Raiders 34, Browns 17.

Houston at Baltimore: Stop me if you've heard this before - if the Texans are going to be one of the NFL's best teams, they need to prove they can win big games on the road. Ravens 24, Texans 23.

Dallas at New England: Like a big juicy cheeseburger, doctored just right with mustard, lettuce, tomato and jalapenos, it doesn't get much better. Patriots 37, Cowboys 24.

New Orleans at Tampa Bay: Watching Drew Brees in person last Sunday was a reminder of just how good he is. Saints 31, Bucs 17.

Minnesota at Chicago: The very good news for the Vikings is that they finally won a game last Sunday, even if beating Arizona isn't exactly season-changing. The bad news for the Vikings is it might be a while before they win another one. Bears 27, Vikings 13.

Miami at New York Jets: In case you haven't heard, NBC recently cancelled its new series "The Playboy Club" after just three episodes because despite putting beautiful women in satin bunny suits, no one wanted to watch a show that was supposedly about women's empowerment in the 1960s.

What, you might be wondering, does that have to do with this Monday nighter? Well, just because you put two lousy teams in familiar uniforms doesn't mean it's must-see TV. Jets 10, Dolphins 9.

Last week: 7-6

Season: 48-27

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