Night games in Charlotte have always been special, and this will be the last one for this season.
Seems weird, doesn’t it? By virtue of last season’s success, the Panthers got a prime-time NFL schedule loaded with night games this season. But the last two of them are away, at Seattle and at Washington, and this team certainly isn’t going to be hosting a prime-time playoff game. So this is it. Squeeze the juice out of it.
▪ Do you realize Ted Ginn Jr. hasn’t scored a touchdown all season for Carolina? He had 10 in 2015. I think the first one comes Thursday night. Carolina has to get some more production out of No. 19, who still has some speed and has been close on several deep balls.
▪ Speaking of fast wide receivers: Brandin Cooks absolutely killed the Panthers a month ago, catching seven passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. Carolina doesn’t have anybody as fast as Cooks in its secondary, but at least the Panthers aren’t in quite as dire straits in terms of defensive back injuries as they were a month ago. Still, I expect Cooks to go for at least 100 again.
▪ “Steve Smith: A Football Life” airs Friday at 9 p.m. Eastern on NFL Network. You know that’s going to be good.
▪ I like the blue “color rush” uniforms the Panthers will be wearing Thursday night. Cam Newton does, too – he says when he plays the “Madden” video game that he chooses the Panthers to wear that color scheme.
▪ Prediction time. I am 5-4 picking the Panthers after hitting on their last two games (the victory over Los Angeles and the loss to Kansas City). Carolina always plays New Orleans better at home. My pick: Carolina 30, New Orleans 28.
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