The Panthers seem like they haven't played a game in forever.
It feels like that when you go into your bye week losing to a team you shouldn't have lost to. I remain convinced the Panthers are better than Minnesota, but Olindo Mare's hooked field-goal attempt and Steve Smith's questionable holding penalty Oct.30th ended the Panthers' final drive on a sour note that has been ringing in the air around here for the past two weeks.
So on Sunday here comes Tennessee. The Titans' best player -- running back Chris Johnson -- has been having a horrible season by his standards. And yet the Titans are still 4-4 and in the playoff hunt. While this game is winnable, it will require a far better performance than the Panthers gave against the Vikings.
-- In the four games Tennessee quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has started against Carolina (all while he was with Seattle), he has won three of them. One was the NFC championship game in 2005, when the Panthers got blown out in Seattle and the Seahawks advanced to the Super Bowl.
-- A shudder-worthy memory: The last time these two teams played against each other, in 2007, the quarterback matchup was Carolina's David Carr against Tennessee's Vince Young. Tennessee won, 20-7.
-- I'm going to do Panther fans a favor. I started off OK early in the season picking Panther outcomes, but I've gone totally off the rails over the past month. I'm 0-3 predicting the past three Panther games, and so based on recent history my pick today is almost guaranteed not to turn out right. So here's an early Thanksgiving present for all you Panther fans.
My pick: Tennessee 27, Carolina 24.