Since you checked my blog -- thanks for that! -- you get a little bonus today. Here are my pregame thoughts -- and my prediction -- for the Panthers-Saints game Sunday (this will also be in Sunday's Observer).
Also, I'll let you know that I have just completed a massive story on Carolina linebacker Jon Beason that will also be in the Sunday Oct.19 Charlotte Observer sports section (with good photos, too!).
I'll post a little more about the story on "The Beast" by Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m., but I think it's fair to say Beason has never opened up quite like this before to the media. If you read it and don't know a lot more about him after the story, then you must be related to him.
Onto the Panthers-Saints pregame thoughts and my prediction:
** There are no easy games in the NFC South this season. Atlanta was supposed to be the one “gimme” on everybody’s schedule, but that’s gone out the window with the emergence of rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. So here comes New Orleans to Charlotte. The Saints have the highest profile in the division, simply because they have the best offense, which in turns generates the most highlights thanks to Drew Brees and Reggie Bush. They also have the worst record (3-3).
** A big key for Carolina Sunday will be whether it can run the ball without a couple of its best offensive linemen against a mediocre Saints defense that is 14th in the league against the run. That 20-carry, 40-yard performance against Tampa Bay was embarrassing.
** I like the black jerseys the Panthers will wear Sunday better than those white ones. They look a little tougher.
** The Panthers need to get more creative against the Saints today on offense. The direct snap to DeAngelo Williams usually works; use it more often. And it’s not against the rules to actually give the ball to Steve Smith on a reverse instead of just faking it.
** Jake Delhomme generally throws the ball well against his former team, and Carolina has for once established a homefield advantage in Charlotte this year (3-0).
** I picked against the Panthers last week in Tampa, although I didn't think they would lose quite that badly. But I think they have a good chance Sunday if they don’t get yet another punt blocked after their first possession. Brees and Bush will have their moments, but the Panther defense is better-equipped to hold the Saints under 21 points than most. That’s what it will take.
My pick: Carolina 21, New Orleans 20.