It has been eight years since New England visited Charlotte, and that’s an eternity in the NFL. The Panthers and Patriots have not played very often, but when they have, it has been memorable. They have only played five times in games that counted, but four of those have a spot in Panthers history. In order of importance, they were:
1. The Super Bowl. Following the 2003 season, the Patriots bested Carolina in the most important meeting between the teams. Jake Delhomme threw for 211 yards – in the fourth quarter! – and led touchdown drives on the Panthers’ final three possessions. And Carolina still lost 32-29 because Tom Brady was even better.
2. The Seifert Bowl. In George Seifert’s final game as the Panthers’ coach, more than 50,000 empty seats mocked the team in Charlotte as New England decimated the Panthers 38-6 in the last game of the 2001 season.
3. The Redemption Bowl. Two years after the Super Bowl, the Panthers upset New England 27-17 in Week 2 of the 2005 regular season in Charlotte. It was the first indication Carolina again was ready to go to the playoffs (the team finished 11-5).
4. The Kasay Bowl. Carolina’s first road win came in 1995, their inaugural season, when John Kasay won the game in overtime with a field goal, 20-17.
• The Panthers will wear black jerseys Monday night and want fans coming to the game to wear black as well for a “blackout” effect.
• This is scary good:Since the 2010 season, the Patriots are 24-1 in the second half of the regular season. Yes, that’s correct: 8-0 twice, 7-1 once and 1-0 this season.
• Brady is 13-4 on “Monday Night Football,” which means he has played more than one regular season’s worth of games on Monday night. Suffice it to say the moment is not going to be too big for him.
• I missed my Panthers’ pick last week, breaking a string of six straight hits. This time I think the Panthers will prevail, paced again by a defense that will rise to this momentous occasion. Prediction: Carolina 21, New England 18.