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Pondering Panthers’ future on a bye week

Tom Sorensen
Tom Sorensen has been a columnist at The Observer for 20 years and has been at the paper for 25, writing about nearly every sport in the Carolinas.

I hear from people who contend that fans, as well as the media, made too much of Carolina’s victory last week. They claim the score had less to do with the Panthers’ good work than with their opponent’s ineptitude.

They’re right in that the New York Giants were, and probably still are, terrible. But the Panthers shut them out. They shut out a team that, perpetually playing from behind, came in averaging 24 points a game. Even Jacksonville has scored the past three Sundays. The shutout was the first in the NFL this season.

Carolina’s front seven was overpowering, the secondary impressive. The quarterback ran effectively, and because he did New York had to change the way it played him. Blockers blocked, runners ran and receivers torched whatever defense the Giants applied. Brandon LaFell freed himself for his first touchdown with a stutter step worthy of a poster.

Panther fans, meanwhile, are as numb as they are gleeful. Did that really happen? Will it happen again?

I have no idea.

We’ve seen what the Panthers can do. We have no idea what they will do.

Last Week: 9-7

Season: 31-17

Upset of the Week: I picked Baltimore, a 21/2-point underdog, to beat Houston. My Ravens won by 21.

Season: 1-2

Lock of the Week: I picked Denver, a 141/2-point favorite, to cover against Oakland. My Broncos won by 16.

Season: 2-1.

This week’s games, with the home team in CAPS:

KANSAS CITY 27, New York Giants 17

It’s tough to envision Eli Manning and Tom Coughlin 0-4. But why would you pick visitors? Why won’t Kansas City’s defense dominate New York’s offensive line the way Carolina did?

DENVER 37, Philadelphia 27

The over-under is 57, which is the highest in the NFL this week. It’s not enough. I want to like the Eagles. But since their fantastic season-opening first-half against Washington, what have they done? Be interesting to see who runs more plays.

NEW ORLEANS 30, Miami 24

If Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense is as good as it appears, two things will happen. The Saints will make the playoffs and Ryan won’t be fired again. But the Dolphins are the greatest team in all of Florida. They have a quarterback, a coach and a fine pass defense that will match up reasonably well with Drew Brees and the Saints.

PITTSBURGH 9, Minnesota 7

Because Pittsburgh and Minnesota are winless the game was deported. Maybe it’s a test to see how badly London wants an NFL team.

The rest:

Seattle 27, HOUSTON 24

Baltimore 23, BUFFALO 17

TAMPA BAY 12, Arizona 10

Indianapolis 20, JACKSONVILLE 13

Cincinnati 23, CLEVELAND 17

DETROIT 24, Chicago 21

TENNESSEE 20, New York Jets 14

Washington 21, OAKLAND 20

Upset of the Week: SAN DIEGO (+11/2) 30, Dallas 27

I can’t imagine Mike McCoy, the new San Diego head coach and former Panther quarterback coach, doing anything but succeeding. Also, I don’t trust the Cowboys on the road. But here’s why this one scares me. Monte Kiffin is a defensive genius. And he has the Dallas defense playing well.

Lock of the Week: ATLANTA (-11/2) 31, New England 27

Only fools pick against the Patriots. No matter how poorly they play, they win. But the 1-2 Falcons are at home in prime time. They have more talent, and they’ll prove it.

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