The Carolina Panthers are the best team in the NFC, right? They’re undefeated, Cam Newton’s a great leader, their defense is tough…
But not so fast.
I’m not talking about the idiotic point spread on the Cowboys’ game (more on that below), I’m talking about the Arizona Cardinals, who might not be undefeated, but who would absolutely give Carolina a run for their money if they played, and for my money, would win that game.
The Cardinals’ Carson Palmer (who just got some long awaited revenge on his old team – remember how petty THAT dispute got?) is having a great season both leadership and stats wise (although Newton has been brilliant in leading his team to wins, his numbers, especially passing, are not all that stellar).
The Cardinals run the ball exceedingly well, just like the Panthers. The Cardinals play tough defense, just like the Panthers. And unlike the Panthers, the Cardinals roster is LOADED with playmakers like Chris Johnson, John Brown and Larry Fitzgerald, while the Panthers have Cam, Cam and Cam some more.
So far, it’s been good enough, but the Cardinals have played a tougher schedule than Carolina and shown they are up to the challenge. Let’s see how the Panthers answer the bell down the stretch, and whether they can match up with Arizona come playoff time.
This Week’s Sucked And Won
Charcandrick West, RB (KC): When you think about how reliant the Chiefs’ offense has been on Jamaal Charles and now West in his absence, it’s amazing they blew out the Chargers this week. West gained just 16 yards on 11 carries. Awful.
This week’s catch of the day has to go to the Texans DeAndre Hopkins. Matched up against Darrelle Revis, Hopkins had himself a big day, highlighted by a 61 yard bomb he hauled in after cleanly beating Revis downfield. Good show!
Shocking Realization of the Week
The Chicago Bears played their entire game against the Broncos, a closely contested loss, without getting called for a single penalty. In the super whistle happy NFL of today, I didn’t even think that was possible.
Who’s going to emerge and grab that second wildcard spot in the AFC? The Steelers seem to have the inside track on the first one, and up until now, the second has been presumed to go to one of three teams: the Jets, Bills or Raiders. But the Jets and Raiders both lost yesterday, and the Bills have New England. Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs, meanwhile, have won four in a row, have the best conference record of the 5-5s, and, most significantly, have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. Despite the loss of Jamaal Charles, don’t be shocked if it’s the Chiefs who snag that last playoff spot, and not either of those AFC East wannabes.
This Week’s Great But Lost
Teddy Bridgewater, QB (MIN): If the Vikings are looking for a silver lining in this week’s loss to the Packers, it has to be the play of their young QB, who outdueled Aaron Rodgers, throwing for 296 yards and a touchdown, posting a passer rating of 100.7, and gaining 43 yards on the ground on 4 carries. A full day, just not enough to notch a win.
I realize I’m celebrating my own personal Ryan Fitzpatrickpalooza, but for the third week in a row I feel compelled to feature him. In the fourth quarter of the Jets’ loss to Houston, Fitzpatrick ran a designed quarterback draw from the 6 yard line. He got to the 1 ½, where he was met by a Texans’ safety. Rather than slide, Fitpatrick put his head down and drilled the guy with his helmet, getting the extra yards he needed to score while his helmet flew off and landed on the ground. It was the closest thing I’ve seen to Engine Joe Kapp (look it up, you won’t be sorry) in a while. Fitzpatrick isn’t a great quarterback, but I’m sold that he is one hell of a football player.
Philadelphia (-1) @Detroit (5Dimes)
Holy crap, what a God-awful mess the Eagles are. So how, how, HOW in the name of pilgrims and gravy are they favored on the road over a team that’s won two straight and was clearly better than their awful 1-7 start? Hell if I know, but I do know that I’m not touching the Eagles as a favorite anytime soon. And does anyone who knows thing 1 about football really care if Sam Bradford or Mark Sanchez starts? I know I don’t. Give me the Lions.
Detroit Lions 20 Philadelphia Eagles 17
Carolina (pick ‘em) @Dallas (Westgate Superbook)
This game opened with Dallas giving points. What a joke! A Vegas oddsmaker who was asked about that line basically admitted there was no way Carolina shouldn’t be the favorite, but that “it was Dallas on Thanksgiving and Romos’ back.” In other words, everyone is hot to bet on the Cowboys and now they think it’s a good idea because Tony Romo is back. Don’t kid yourself. The Cowboys are certainly loads better with Romo under center, but all they’ve done since he returned was beat an inconsistent Miami team. That’s a far cry, honestly, from taking down the NFC’s only remaining undefeated squad. That said, this is gonna be a GREAT game. Don’t eat so much that you fall asleep and miss it!
Carolina Panthers 31 Dallas Cowboys 28
Carolina @Dallas o/u 45.5 (Westgate Superbook)
As I said, this is gonna be a great game, and although the Panthers are known for good defense, I think this game will be more of the high scoring variety, with the Panthers’ defense needing to make a big stop late, rather than being able to shut down Dallas all game. As for stopping Cam Newton, no one’s been able to, and the Cowboys’ questionable stop unit won’t either, although it’s gonna be fun watching ex-Panther and Anger Management Poster Boy Greg Hardy try. In the meantime, I like the over here.
Carolina Panthers 31 Dallas Cowboys 28
Chicago (+8) @Green Bay (Bookmaker.eu)
I like the Packers enough to make them an early week Best Pick. Aaron Rodgers brooke out of his slump last week in a big game the team needed. It probably didn’t hurt, either, that it was a rivalry game. All of the same criteria apply here. The Packers probably can’t catch Carolina for home field throughout, but they need to put distance between themselves and Minnesota and they can still pass Arizona, who has a very tough schedule, to get the #2 seed and a first round bye. Bears-Packers is the NFL’s oldest rivalry, and I feel compelled to point out that Jay Cutler has beaten the Pzckers once. Ever. You think THAT’s gonna change? Happy Thanksgiving Cheeseheads!
Green Bay Packers 30 Chicago Bears 20
“Are you going to be a pro? Are you going to be a man? Are you going to come to work and do your job?!” – Chargers QB Philip Rivers, amid speculation that the team had quit during their 33-3 blowout loss to the Chiefs.
“The whole country is watching and we didn’t play well at all. It seems like every time we get in these types of games, we don’t play well. So we have to learn from this. We definitely need to fix this to take this team to the next level.” – Vikings CB Captain Munnerlyn, lamenting his team’s inability to step up in a big game against the Packers.
“That was pretty hectic. He gave me about 5 minutes to prepare.” – Broncos QB Brock Osweiler, relaying how coach Gary Kubiak told him he wanted him to address the team before his first start of the season against the Bears.
“Carson studies more and prepares more than any quarterback. We know that as long as we keep him upright, he’s going to do what he does.” – Cardinals C Lyle Sendlein, on QB Carson Palmer, the man he’s charged with protecting.
“I think we’re relevant again.” – Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, on his team reaching 5-5 after beating the Eagles on Sunday. The Bucs are a game out of a playoff spot with 6 to play.
“I’ll tell you this. You know those kinds of moments, we don’t want a flag, we don’t, but that strikes confidence. Everybody on the sidelines sees it and the guys on the field, you know, it just gives you that extra boost of confidence, and I think that’s something that we needed.” – Cowboys WR Dez Bryant on a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty he and Terrance Williams drew for excessive celebration after a TD in the second quarter against the Dolphins.
“He’s the best receiver in the league, hands down, in my opinion.” – Texans OT Duane Brown, on breakout wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has put up numbers comparable to Julio Jones and Antonio Brown this season.
“That has been a great blessing to have Joe every single game for eight and a half years here.” – Ravens coach John Harbaugh, on QB Joe Flacco, who has never missed a start as Baltimore’s quarterback. Flacco will miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury.