The Freak’s second stop on the road around the USA was in Charlotte, N.C., to see the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Panthers.
Thanks to longtime friend Peter Connick, who is from Summerside, and his family, Andrea, Amy, Jessie and Spencer, who now live in the area, we had a great set-up for tailgating. We arrived at the parking lot at 8:45 a.m., all with our Cam Newton jerseys, and had everything rolling by 9:30. There is nothing like some serious tailgating before kickoff, which at times is more fun than the actual game itself.
The Carolina faithful do the traditional tailgating activities, but partying with some of the Falcons’ die-hards, The Freak saw some new southern activities. One that caught our attention was a big group of Atlanta fans who brought their own professional disc jockeys to the parking lot, and had it rockn’ with some great hip hop that impressed many, especially The Freak’s kids, Charlie, Finn and Owen, who were attending their first-ever NFL game.
With the Panthers going into the game 3-9 (won-lost), there wasn’t a huge crowd, and the excitement in the air was rather tame compared to The Freak’s last game in Washington.
The stadium was nice and had no bad seats, but with about 10,000 empty blue seats, the noise level was not very loud compared to many other stadiums.
The most popular jersey for the hometown Panthers definitely was wide receiver Steve Smith (No. 89), with Cam Newton (No. 1) being a close second along with many DeAngelo Williams (No. 34). Since the Panthers really don’t have a long football history, you didn’t see many jerseys of past players.
The Atlanta fans, on the other hand, were dressed in Matt Ryan’s (No. 2), Julio Jones (No. 11), and the other Turner, Michael Turner (No. 33). Also, there were many Deion Sanders’ No. 21 jerseys as the Falcons his NFL’s first team.
In the game itself, the Panthers played inspired football while the Falcons looked flat, and The Freak saw first-hand that fine line in the NFL between winning and losing. If you are 3-9 but come to play, and the other team that is 11-1 doesn’t, the team who shows up will win. This was the case in the Panthers’ 30-20 win.
Newton, last season’s rookie of the year, did not disappoint as he had a number of big runs and throws, including an electrifying and crowd-pleasing 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. The Freak was amazed by the run, but did not like the unnecessary forward flip into the end zone.
One thing about Newton is he has all this other extracurricular showmanship stuff, which is hard for teammates to respect and really questions his leadership.
In comparing Newton to RGIII, who may be this year’s rookie of the year, they have a similar skill set. However, RGIII is very accurate throwing the ball compared to Newton, who missed a number of wide-open receivers down the field, and even on passes in the flat.
Newton is bigger physically and lacks the same speed to the outside, and is not even close to RGIII in terms of play action and fakes. Finally, The Freak thinks Newton will have a career in the NFL, but once he loses his legs, his strong arm, with no accuracy, will not cut it in the NFL. However, with time and effort, that can be corrected.
See you all next week as The Freak’s entourage heads to New Orleans for the Bucs-Saints’ game.
Stat of the week
Even as a backup quarterback Tim Tebow had a big influence on the attendance in the game between the Jets and Jacksonville (Tebow’s hometown). It was the largest crowd there since 2007, and they got to watch him carry the clipboard.
Pet peeve of the week
Tragedy again in the NFL. When will these guys learn they are not above the law with drinking and driving?
The league has a program where any player can call anytime and a chauffeur will pick them up for free. Please start calling.
Bonehead play of the week
The officials in the Cincy-Dallas game calling a personal foul on a very clean hit by Reggie Nelson on Dez Bryant. Yeah they want to protect the players, but let them play the game.
The sure thing
After The Freak’s first perfect week in over a year, one usually never takes Detroit on the road. But they are playing Arizona, which is like playing a college team. Take the Lions.
Seattle is playing the Bills in Toronto (Rogers Center), which is to their advantage as they aren’t a great cold-weather team. With no Leafs, fans cheer on the Bills, but ‘Hawks win.
Don’t mortgage the house picks
The Freak will be cheering hard with the rest of the “Who Dat” nation. We brought luck to the Panthers last week, and it will continue with a Saints’ win.
The Cowboys and the Steelers, and we all think back to those Super Bowls in the ‘70s. Well, they are not battling for a ring this time, but to stay alive for the playoffs. Steelers look lost lately on offence, so take Dallas.
Indy travels to take on the Texans, who have looked mediocre of late. Things change on Sunday as Houston’s D pressures Andrew Luck into too many mistakes. Texans beat Indy.
Green Bay can clinch the NFC North with a win over Chicago. The Bears have gone into hibernation once again, and the Pack will clinch the division on the road.
The Pats, who play most of their games in the AFC, have only played your typical drop-back quarterbacks all season.
However, they play the 49ers from the NFC (Newton, RGIII, Wilson, Vick), who have a very mobile quarterback in Colin Kaepernick. This type of option offence will give the Pats trouble, and the 49ers will pull off the upset.
Last week: 7-for-7.
John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.