It’s too early to use the phrase “up in smoke” for the Carolina Panthers’ 2016 season; they’re 3-6 and could still get to the playoffs. But the fans who see them play the New Orleans Saints Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium may be sitting up in smoke themselves.
The National Weather Service wasn’t saying Wednesday whether the haze that has hovered over Charlotte would be better or worse by the 8:25 p.m. start. But aerial detritus from the fires in western Carolina prompted the NWS to issue an air quality alert that’s in effect through midnight Thursday.
It declared a Code Orange condition that means “older adults, children, active people and those with heart or lung disease may experience (adverse) health effects. … Limit prolonged or heavy exertion outdoors.” (Hope that doesn’t apply to offensive linemen, or it’ll be a long night for Cam Newton.) The air should be rain-free, and temperatures should hold steady in the low 60s about game time.
The game’s a big deal for the Panthers and the Saints (who are 4-5), because they are scrapping for position behind the first-place Atlanta Falcons (6-4) in the NFC South with seven games to play. Both the Panthers and Saints suffered embarrassing losses last weekend, but the Panthers are also trying to avenge a 41-38 defeat at New Orleans in week six of the season.
What else do you need to know? You can still get tickets for as little as $33 apiece online at ticketmaster. There may be extra foot traffic (or traffic generally), because the 2016 Charlotte International Auto Show opens at the Charlotte Convention Center on Thursday.
If you’re tucked up at home, out of the range of those floating particulates, you can watch the game on NBC 36 (Channel 6 for Time-Warner/Spectrum subscribers). And if the game becomes too painful to endure, switch over to “The Matrix” on AMC. If you take the blue pill, you can live in a world where the Panthers go 16-0.
Lawrence Toppman: 704-358-5232