It has been eight years since New England visited Charlotte, and that is an eternity in the NFL. The Panthers and the Patriots have not played very often, but when they have it's been memorable. They have only played five times in games that counted, but four of those have a spot in Panther history. In order of importance, they were:
1) The Super Bowl. Following the 2003 season, the Patriots bested Carolina in the most important game the two teams have ever played. Jake Delhomme (shown above, running out onto the field with his teammates before that Super Bowl) threw for 211 yards -- in the fourth quarter! He led three touchdown drives in the Panthers' final three possessions and Carolina still lost, 32-29, because Tom Brady was even better.
2) The Seifert Bowl. In George Seifert's final game as the Panthers' head coach, more than 50,000 empty seats mocked the team as New England decimated the Panthers, 38-6 in the last game of the 2001 season.
3) The Redemption Bowl. Two years after the Super Bowl, the Panthers upset New England, 27-17, in Week 2 of the 2005 regular season in Charlotte. It was the first indication that Carolina was ready to go to the playoffs (the team would finish 11-5).
4) The Kasay Bowl. Carolina's first-ever road win came in 1995, when John Kasay won the game in overtime, 20-17.
-- The Panthers are wearing black jerseys Monday night and want fans coming to the game to wear black as well for a "blackout" effect.
-- This is scary good -- since the 2010 season, the Patriots are 24-1 in the second half of the regular season (Games 9-16 each year). Yes, that's correct: 8-0 twice, 7-1 once and 1-0 so far this season.
-- Tom Brady is 13-4 on "Monday Night Football," which means he's played more than one regular season's worth of games on Monday night. Suffice it to say the moment is not going to be too big for him.
-- This is weird: Carolina and New England are two of the three NFL teams NOT named for either a specific city or a specific state. The third? Tampa Bay.
-- I missed my Panthers' pick last week, breaking a string of six straight hits. This time I think the Panthers will prevail, paced once again by a defense that will rise to this momentous occasion. Prediction: Carolina 21, New England 18.