As you all know, the Carolina Panthers play in London this Sunday. It’s the franchise’s first ever game overseas, and it’s been a ... process, we’ll say, getting everything sorted for it. My colleagues Scott Fowler and Jeff Siner were the first to test the international waters, flying over Tuesday night and spending Wednesday getting acclimated.
I shuffled onto my Wednesday night flight from New York to London Heathrow desperately dreading the cramped confinement of seat 31G. Yes, a middle seat for an eight-hour international flight — not my smartest plan. But in the aisle seat next to me sat a London native named Dennis.
Dennis was a middle-aged gentleman (he later said he was 54) with thinning gray hair, two faded tattoos on his left arm and a toothy grin. We got to talking before the flight took off, alongside our other two seatmates, Grant and Megan, a recently-engaged couple from Charlotte’s South End. They also were headed over for the game.
When the drink cart rolled around soon after takeoff, Dennis got himself — as well as the other three of us — a Heineken. Cheers, he said. We clanked cans and kept talking. The conversation eventually rolled to football, at which point we learned Dennis was a sorta-kinda NFL fan. He knew some teams, some players. He knew the Panthers, having just visited family in Asheville and Charlotte. Megan and Grant tried convincing him to go to Sunday’s game (before he realized how expensive tickets were). Two hundred quid (pounds)?? You kiddin’ me? Dennis exclaimed, with a bit more colorful language.
But the conversation turned to London, and life and love. Dennis recently divorced his wife of 30 years (online at a public library, for about 400 pounds — roughly $500 U.S. — apiece) and had found a new girlfriend. Megan and Grant are getting married in South End in March. My girlfriend and I are looking to move in together after about three years of dating.
It was a fascinating conversation, from three groups of people at three dramatically different points in our lives.
You’re probably wondering at this point, isn’t this a football newsletter? It is, and so here’s the final point:
Football brought all four of us together, cramped into a redeye flight with nowhere to go and no one else to talk to. But we made fast friends and learned tips for the city. And again, it never would’ve happened if not for football.
These are the sort of authentic moments and experiences I want to shine through in our coverage at The Charlotte Observer. We’re in London for our readers, for you all, so you deserve to know what exactly the experience is like. It’s why you come to us, and it’s why we do what we do. Dennis was my first experience in London, so now he’s yours, too.
This is our new Panthers newsletter. If you subscribe to our daily headlines newsletter, don’t worry, you’ll continue to receive that, too. But every Monday and Friday morning, you’ll also get this, to hopefully give you an even better inside look at what’s going on with the Panthers, some commentary and a recap of the week’s top stories ... right in your inbox.
As Scott, Jeff and I keep traversing the United States (and world this week), that’s always our goal: To take you places we’re lucky enough to go, and to try to bring to life the incredible things that we see. It’s a crazy job, but one damn worth doing.
So we hope you’ll follow our work abroad, at home and everywhere in between. If you like what we do, please consider subscribing and supporting our efforts. Your support is so crucial to us continuing to bring you the coverage you know and love — and that includes conversations with every Dennis out there.
— Brendan Marks
Panthers vs. Buccaneers, 9:30 a.m. Sunday
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London
Watch: NFL Network (locally on Fox)
Listen: 1110 AM
Did not participate: Natrell Jamerson (foot), Greg Little (concussion), Christian Miller (ankle), Cam Newton (foot), Trai Turner (ankle).
Limited: Eric Reid (ankle), Shaq Thompson (ankle)
Full participation: Brian Burns (wrist), Donte Jackson (groin), Chris Manhertz (concussion), Christian McCaffrey (back), Gerald McCoy (knee)
Kyle Allen is 3-0 as a starter this season, but that hasn’t done much for his value in fantasy football. His best performance of the season came Week 3 at Arizona in his first start when he scored ESPN fantasy owners 24.3 points (4 TDs, 261 yards). He was the sixth-best fantasy QB that week and was only rostered in 0.5 percent of ESPN leagues.
The following week, he was rostered in 10.5 percent of leagues, fumbled three times at Houston and scored 3.3 fantasy points. In his Week 5 win vs. Jacksonville, his roster percentage was down to 8.1 percent but his scoring increased 11.6 points.
Entering Friday, Allen’s stock has risen slightly (8.9 percent of leagues) and he’s projected to score 15.6 points. Is he worth picking up and starting? If there was ever a week to put him in your lineup, this would be it.
Tampa Bay has allowed more passing yards per game (323.6) than any team in the NFL. The biggest concern — and what keeps Allen from being a fantasy darling — is his high rate of fumbling (six in three games), and Buccaneers opponents fumble an average of 1.8 times per game, fifth-most in the league.
The Carolina Panthers have found themselves quite a home away from home this week: A picturesque boarding school where both a “Harry Potter” movie and parts of the TV series “The Crown” were filmed.
The Carolina Panthers will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, which has led to a number of NFL logistical concerns. Many players have never been overseas before.
Former Panther running back DeAngelo Williams — in London to support the team as its alumni ambassador — said he still wants an apology from the organization for not sending anyone to his mother’s funeral.
With 6.5 sacks in 5 games, Panthers edge rusher Mario Addison is one of the NFL’s best ... but few people know who he is.
Sunday marked his 74th career victory as the Panthers’ coach — more than anyone else in team history.