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Who will affect Texans at Panthers more, J.J. Watt or Ryan Mallett?

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (99) will affect Sunday’s game in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. But other Texans will affect it more.
Houston defensive end J.J. Watt (99) will affect Sunday’s game in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers. But other Texans will affect it more. AP

Welcome to Tom Talks, the sports talk show of the printed page, the Internet and, someday, a podcast. But I have to figure out how to fix a DVD player first. You ask, I answer. Let’s go to the phones.

Tom, Crutchfield from Crutchfield. And don’t say Crutchfield isn’t a town. It’s on the Yadkin River.

I believe you.

You picked the Panthers to beat Houston. How do you beat a team with a defensive end such as J.J. Watt?

Watt is great, one of the best ever. The Texans are 33-32 during his time there. He’ll affect the game. Houston quarterback Ryan Mallett will affect it more.

Tom, Ricki from Red Springs. Do you think fans of the Carolina Panthers are jitterier than fans of other teams?

Every team has jittery fans. Every city has jittery people. I don’t get it, but I’ve always been bad at panic. You call some Panthers fans and expect to hear: “Hi, this is Ricki, and I can’t come to the phone right now BECAUSE I’M PANICKING AND YOU SHOULD, TOO, AND WHY DIDN’T THE PANTHERS SIGN RANDY MOSS? Oh, and leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

Tom, Sandy from Sedalia. The Buffalo Bills host the New England Patriots Sunday, and in the Bills’ team store this week footballs and air pumps are displayed. You think it’s funny or you think it’s tasteless, and won’t it fire up the Patriots?

I think it’s funny. I think the Patriots already are fired up. I think the Bills are, too.

Tom, Daniel from Boone.

Wish I had thought of that.

You’ve criticized players for celebrating. So why didn’t you criticize Carolina cornerback Josh Norman last week when he waved at Blake Bortles after he picked off Bortles’ pass? Then he took it to the end zone and celebrated by riding an imaginary horse?

I criticize players for doing the same celebration everybody else does. “Hey, look, I’m Deion Sanders.” No, you’re not. Norman’s wave was understated, and he owns and rides horses in real life. Also, he dismounted. How often do you see that? I love original. There’s not enough of it.

Tom, Nick from Knightdale. You saw the video of the high school players in Texas taking out the referee. What was your take?

The hits were brutal. One kid popped the referee from behind and the other dove at him while he was on the ground. The two players were suspended from school for three days and kicked off the team. One contends that a coach told him to go after the ref, and the other says the coach’s message was relayed via another player. Why go after the ref? Because, some contend, he was using racial slurs and apparently making questionable calls. Think back, Nick. When you were in high school, the thing that just happened is the most important thing that ever will happen. So you react. I’m not excusing the players. But I understand that dynamic. Now, if a coach told the players to go after the referee, he should be banned from working with kids again. A coach has been suspended. If he’s guilty, that’s not enough.

Tom, Sheri from Chantilly. Long-time caller, first-time listener. Cam Newton carried the ball 14 times against Jacksonville. Isn’t that too much?

It is too much. But some of the runs were a reaction to the manner in which the Jacksonville defense set up. I thought offensive coordinator Mike Shula called a good game. I’ll be shocked if Newton carries the ball 14 times against Houston.

Tom, Lyle from Lucama. Newton is 6’5” and, based on what he told the media this week, weighs somewhere between 220 and 290 pounds. Let him run.

He said his weight fluctuates around his base of about 245, and that he cares about body fat, not weight. The man is always going to be big and he’s always going to run. He has a gift, so he’ll use it. His contract isn’t a factor. The talent around him is. I won’t be surprised if Ted Ginn Jr. or Philly Not Corey Brown breaks one deep.

I wonder where he ranks on the Panthers’ all-time career rushing list.

He ranks fourth. He trails DeShaun Foster, who is third, by 730 yards.