Two quick Oakland-related stories and then a prediction:
▪ Longtime Panthers fans will remember that Jack Del Rio, current coach of the Raiders and a strong candidate for coach of the year, was Carolina's defensive coordinator in 2002.
Del Rio was young then, but he was old-school. I remember in our first long interview he said of the Carolina team: "The players – they have to do what they’re told. That’s just the way it works. The players can’t question."
That was John Fox's first year as Carolina's head coach, and the defense made a remarkable jump from No. 31 in the league in yards allowed in 2001 to No. 2 in 2002. Del Rio parlayed that into his first NFL head job, at Jacksonville in 2003.
Fox often talked about "chopping wood" as a player, and Del Rio took that motto to a new level at Jacksonville. The coach had an actual tree stump with an axe stuck in it placed in the Jaguars’ locker room. Players could pick up the axe and take a swing at the stump whenever they liked.
You see where this is going, right? In October 2003, Jacksonville punter Chris Hanson picked up the axe and swung it. The axe blade ricocheted off the stump and directly into Hanson’s right shin. He had a four-hour surgery and was lost for the season.
▪ Oakland quarterback Derek Carr is having a much better NFL career than his older brother David, who played for the Panthers for one season in 2007.
By the time he got to Carolina, David Carr had permanent "happy feet" in the pocket by virtue of playing five years for a bad Houston team with an even worse offensive line. Carr was a nice guy, but he was skittish any time pass rushers got near him. He also wore gloves on both hands at Carolina.
This wouldn't have been something to make fun of – other NFL quarterbacks have done it – except that Carr's play was so poor. The gloves and the dancing in the pocket made Carr look a little like Michael Jackson, and he played quarterback that season about as well as Michael Jackson would have.
▪ My prediction: I am 6-4 picking Carolina games after hitting the last three in a row. The Panthers need to play close to error-free football to beat an 8-2 Oakland team, and I don't quite think they will get there. My pick: Oakland 26, Carolina 24.
Fowler: 704-358-5140; Twitter: @scott_fowler